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North Carolina: A Victory Won in Struggle Against White Supremacists at UNC

By Carlyn Cowen

Photo of woman with microphone and protestors with signs in front of courthouse

Chapel Hill, NC – Haley Koch and six community activists had their first court date June 1, for their participation in the Tom Tancredo and Virgil Goode protests that took place in April. These protests were in response to a far right-wing organization, Youth for Western Civilization, that brought two anti-immigration speakers, Tom Tancredo and Virgil Goode, to the University of North Carolina campus within a week of each other. Hundreds of students and activists protested the racism, xenophobia and white supremacy that these speakers promoted and seven demonstrators were arrested by campus police in response. They all pleaded not guilty, even after being offered a deal by the district attorney which would lighten their sentence in return for admission of guilt. The seven are standing strong in their belief that they did no wrong in protesting racism and white supremacy on UNC’s campus and will represent themselves in their next court date, Sept. 14.

UNC students and community members came out to the courthouse in large numbers to stand in solidarity with the activists. A rally and a press conference organized by the UNC Protesters Defense Committee (PDC) put forward the following demands: drop the charges against all the activists; dissolve Youth for Western Civilization; UNC must adopt an official hate speech policy to prevent such events from happening again; an independent police review board should be created. The rally included speeches from Haley’s father, Chris Koch, Reverend Harris from Saint Joseph’s Church, along with former UNC students and community activists who spoke in support of the seven activists and called for the university to meet the demands of the Protesters Defense Committee.

Although the next court date is not until September, the community is continuing to rally strong around this issue. The community solidarity is already beginning to produce results. Last week the student movement gained an important victory when the advisor of the YWC announced he would no longer serve as an advisor to the group, saying that the organization has built a reputation that is “an obstacle to constructive dialogue” due to the resistance it met on campus. “I’m not willing to sponsor an affiliate of the national YWC,” Professor Clemens said. If the organization does not find an advisor within 30 days, it will no longer be an official campus organization. Because of the reputation the organization has gained on campus, many faculty members may be reluctant to take it on. If this happens, Youth for Western Civilization will be without a home, and that would be a blow against organized white supremacy and anti-immigrant politics in the community.

The Protesters Defense Committee is continuing to build support around the creation of an independent review board, exploring the possibility of partnering with UNC’s student government to write a resolution for it. The PDC is also working to keep up support for the seven activists and prepare for the court date in September. The PDC is calling on all those who oppose racist hate-mongering and anti-immigrant politics to stand in solidarity with the PDC and other popular forces in the community in struggling against national oppression and racism.

Photo of Reverend Harrison with microphone and protestors with signs behind him

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