When libertarian speaker Charles Murray came to speak at the University of Michigan Wednesday, not everyone was pleased.
Prior to his arrival, serious threats were issued to College Republicans to intimidate them. An alumnus wrote in the Michigan Daily that Murray was “an ‘alt-right’ bigot who is emboldened by President Donald Trump,” and added that “the event must be canceled or shut down.”
“Even before the event, College Republicans received threats demanding that we rescind Dr. Murray’s invitation, but in the end, we decided to push through because we refused to let intimidation and aggression champion over free speech and respectful conversation,” Enrique Zalamea, president of University of Michigan College Republicans, told The Daily Signal.
Murray, who is currently at conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of books “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” and “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” When Murray spoke at Middlebury College in Vermont this March, protests were so violent that a professor’s neck was injured and she went to the hospital for treatment.
Upon Murray’s arrival, left-wing activists stormed the stage, claiming that Murray was alt-right. They did their best to shut him down. Murray calmly spoke with a protester representative until the hecklers left the room. At one point someone said, “Someone stop this motherf—-r from speaking.” At another moment, some chanted at Murray, “Charles Murray, Go Away/Sexist, Racist, KKK.” You can hear that at the 5:35 mark in the video below:
“I was personally ashamed to see such pitiful and disrespectful behavior from people who call themselves scholars, academics, and students of the University of Michigan. As a staunch advocate for free speech, I was incredibly disheartened to see the same people who call for equality now commandeering the spotlight only to promote their own one-sided agenda,” said Zalamea.
“They would ask great questions, but when the time came to listen to the answers from the other side, they pulled out newspapers, set off phone alarms, or flat-out booed. And when I approached protesters individually, they talked over my answers; asking me different questions instead,” he added.
Writing for The New York Times, Jesse Arm, a senior at the University of Michigan, described how Murray’s speech went:
At one point during that chaotic hour, a university spokesman, Rick Fitzgerald, took to the stage. He called on the protesters to stop shutting down the speaker or further measures would be taken. The boorish behavior continued. Further measures were never taken.
At several points during the inaudible lecture, protesters turned off the lights and displayed a projection with the words ‘white supremacist’ on the wall with an arrow, pointing down at Mr. Murray. Others held signs: ‘We punch white supremacists!’ and ‘Nazis go away.’ Over a dozen University of Michigan police officers stood by. No one was removed from the event.
Zalamea also said:
While the College Republicans at the University of Michigan had no intention to promote racism and bigotry on campus, we were shocked to see students devolve what was meant to be a productive conversation about Charles Murray’s book ‘Coming Apart’ into a one-sided protest about the controversial topics of “The Bell Curve,” which we explicitly denounced prior to the event. …
Personally, I believe that true learning comes from respectful discourse between those who disagree, but what we saw here tonight was far from that. What I saw was a group of leftist protesters who wanted nothing more than to blow off some steam in a classic mob-mentality fashion, rather than actually listening and creating a positive and productive forum for debate.
I’m instantly reminded of all the diversity and inclusivity seminars I’ve taken during the past four years at this university: We talk so much about including all people, but when it comes down to representing controversial topics, we disregard the fact that those too are worth listening to. As the crowd of protesters dispersed tonight, one girl yelled, ‘Where’s your diversity now?’As I scanned the room to see anxious College Republican members, I answered to myself: It’s been here all along, but as usual, you were too loud to hear it.