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Editorial: Free speech means letting all voices be heard

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill got another chance last week to demonstrate how to handle controversial speakers, and this time the speaker did not have to be escorted out without speaking.
That’s what happened two weeks ago with a former Colorado congressman and onetime presidential candidate, Tom Tancredo, known for his anti-immigration views. Students protested that there should be “no dialogue with hate” and put on a pretty hateful show themselves. Between the shouting, demonstrating and breaking glass, campus police decided the safest course was to escort Tancredo out.
Last week, police led out protesters instead and put them under arrest.
The speaker this time was another former congressman, Virgil Goode of Virginia. He is known for his stands against affirmative action and immigration. The crowd that showed up to oppose Goode heckled and harassed him, but once the most disruptive ones were arrested, Goode was able to talk for about 20 minutes and take questions.
Chancellor Holden Thorpe said he regretted that arrests were necessary, but the audience for Goode’s speech had been warned. “I want everyone to know that these six people do not represent what Carolina stands for when it comes to freedom of expression.
That’s as it should be. There’s plenty of room for disagreement on issues like immigration and affirmative action, but people with strong opinions sometimes have to agree to disagree. Everyone has a right to express their opinion.
Both speakers came to UNC at the invitation of Youth for Western Civilization, a campus group trying to make right-wing politics as at-home on the campus as left-wing groups are. Whether the group will reach that goal before running out of former congressmen remains to be seen. But it certainly has given the university and the rest of the state a teaching moment concerning free speech.


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