By Chloe Chappell and William Glomski
On Wednesday evening, the Pitt College Republicans and Students for Liberty hosted the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation for an immigration debate. The civil exchange of ideas from these two experts was the cause of great intrigue for most, while triggering outrage within others.
Less than 15 minutes into the debate, a group of students began to protest by wearing party hats and playing the kazoo. The group of protesters displayed pro-immigration signs, and became unruly whenever the term “illegal immigrants” was used in the debate.
The University of Pittsburgh administration and police responded by asking multiple individuals to not disrupt the other attendees of the debate. These individuals proceeded to defy the rules set out by the event organizers and university policy by holding up signs blocking the views of attendees. Student protesters utilized makeshift signs out of printer paper to get their message heard. Notable slogans include “Immigrants are not a commodity,” “Assimilation is not the goal,” “No one’s illegal,” “Your debate < someone else’s livelihood,” “Pittsburgh’s for all,” and “You’re not welcome on our campus.” The protesters were told to either move to the side or back of the room if they wished to hold up their signs. After they refused and continued to hold up the signs they were warned that if they continued to refuse they would be asked to leave.
The same protesters continued to interrupt the debate with phone calls, coughs, kazoos, party hats, and over-exaggerated snacking on the free Chick-Fil-A provided to all attendees. One unique protester wore a helmet in an attempt to garner attention. Their interruptions visibly irritated the general public and other students in attendance. One member of the Pitt College Republicans, responded to the protesters with “There is a question and answer session, you could’ve waited.”
After they continued to hold up the signs they were asked by a university official to leave. One protester replied to the command, “Free speech. I’m not putting my sign down or leaving.” Two police officers, who were working security for the debate, went to where she was sitting and began to escort her out of the room. Instead, of leaving the debate she stopped and began to read off of her phone in an attempt to inform attendees about illegal aliens who were found dead at the border. She was forced out of the room by the police officers, since she refused to leave. She was placed under detention and taken outside the William Pitt Union.
The protester that resisted arrest was followed by many of the demonstrators who were holding signs and playing kazoos who then began to protest outside of the William Pitt Union. Those who followed her out became increasingly irate as the police were waiting for a squad car to come and pick the detained protester up. They began to chant, “All cops are bastards!,” “Let her go!”, and “No border! No Nation! Stop the Deportation!”
Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner spoke to the group of protesters who congregated outside to address their concerns. Some of the students present for the protest were seen at the Rally for Transparency at Pitt earlier in the week. Dean Bonner told the students that they should respect other people’s opinions, even if those opinions differ from their own. He continued by responding to some of the questions and comments posed by the group. One student angrily shouted at Dean Bonner, “You never deliver, all you do is talk.” Dean Bonner stood outside for approximately 45 minutes to listen to the demands and concerns of the protesters. He told the students, “If you ever want to sit down and talk one on one and hash it out, [I’ll] listen to you and possibly make some progress, but if you don’t want to do that, that’s your fault.”
After the protesters dispersed, student reports came in, claiming acts of vandalism occurring around the Pitt campus, most notably on the statue of the University of Pittsburgh mascot “The Pitt Panther.” The Pitt Maverick will report on this story as more information emerges.
All of the protesters present at the debate and outside the William Pitt Union declined to comment.
All photo credits to Madison Holden