Controversial author David Horowitz was at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Wednesday. The former leftist, turned conservative ideologue, gave a speech, titled "How the Left Undermined America's Security," in the Illinois Room of the Chicago Circle Center.
The event was sponsored by the UIC College Republicans and the Freedom Alliance. Conflict began even before his speech, when Horowitz tore down signs put up by student organizations protesting his appearance in CCC.
The signs, which read "Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay. Don't let him go unchallenged," were put up by members of the International Socialist Organization, a registered student organization at UIC.
At about noon, Horowitz saw these signs in CCC and made his way to the Campus Unions office on the second floor. He filed a complaint with workers in the office, but due to the organizational status of the group they could not force its members to remove the sign.
Horowitz went down to the table set up by the organization, which had been informed about the complaint, took down one of the signs, then tore it up and walked away.
"I came in and there was the normal hate campaign organized by the campus Bolsheviks, known as the International Socialist Organization," Horowitz said in an interview with the Chicago Flame. "These are examples of old Marxist retreads that have learned nothing from the 20th century."
Members of the ISO saw the incident as an example of Horowitz's hypocrisy.
"I think he really exposed himself as being a person that's not in favor of free speech," said Kirstin Roberts, a leader in the ISO.
Roberts also believes the conflict was an issue UIC should have handled in a better fashion.
"I was afraid of him at that time," she said. "Is a paid guest speaker really allowed to come on campus and destroy campus organizations' stuff?"
Alexander Konetzki, a member of the Freedom Alliance and the UIC College Republicans, had a different view of the conflict. He, along with other members of his group, felt the signs displayed were offensive and misleading.
"They're inciting violence. Mr. Horowitz had every right to do it. He has never come out and said, 'I hate blacks, I hate gays, I hate Islam.' It's nothing but slander, and they're doing nothing but endangering the speaker."
Horowitz confirmed the incident took place, but he did not believe it was in any way hypocritical.
"How can you hear if people are throwing epitaphs around," he said. "I don't even look at it as an issue of free speech either way. They kicked me in the groin, so I punched them in the face."
During his speech, Horowitz continued his campaign against leftist groups, at one point early on in the speech referring to them as "Al Qaida's little helpers."
Horowitz began his speech by mentioning his views on the ISO and saying their posters and signs were slanderous, citing immediate reaction from audience members. Many began heckling Horowitz throughout his speech, interrupting and yelling comments such as, "You're a racist, David."
The lecture touched on several ideas, many involving criticisms of leftist ideology, the Clinton administration's handling of foreign policy and its effects on terrorism, war on Iraq and the state of America.
At about 7:30 p.m., a half-hour into the lecture, UIC police escorted a female member of the ISO out of the room after an outburst that stopped the lecture. The woman made several scornful remarks to Horowitz on the topic of Iraq.
Two men sitting behind her, in an effort to quiet her, put their hands on her shoulder. The woman then began yelling at the man behind her. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, police said.
The two men left the lecture after a request by police. A formal complaint was filed against the woman after the lecture, police said.
During the remainder of the lecture, three others were escorted out of the room.
The lecture continued, with many people and groups continuing to interrupt Horowitz, claiming he is "against free speech." Horowitz ignored most of the comments, but remarked, "You have to have a certain decorum to have a discussion" after one of the larger disturbances.
Horowitz finished his hour and a half speech, and began the second portion of the lecture, a question-and-answer session.
He fielded questions about numerous topics, including civil liberties, his previous views and how they differ now. The session began to become unruly as people who opposed Horowitz's views began asking him questions about racism in the White House and the war on Iraq.
Political science professor Valerie Johnson challenged Horowitz, asking him to cite the statistics he had been using, claiming a freshman student would have failed if they used the amount of sources Horowitz did.
In answering this question, Horowitz said college campuses need more conservative professors. Also, he began making statements about life choices and the failures he sees in welfare programs. The noise level began to increase as many in the audience became angry at his answers.
When a sense of serenity returned to the audience, Horowitz fielded a question from ISO member Gimena Gordillo. When Gordillo asked about the Bush administration's reasons for engaging in a conflict with Afghanistan, Horowitz claimed she was taking a tone he did not appreciate and refused to answer that and any other questions for the night, ending the lecture.
Gordillo was not pleased that Horowitz did not respond to her question, and protested his presence on campus.
"When the speech started, I was really worried because I have read his work and what he was saying is not what he writes. His books are quite contradictory to what he was saying."
Gordillo believes Horowitz ended the lecture early because he had no answers to the questions they were asking.
Konetzki, however, thought Horowitz was justified in ending the lecture early.
"I don't know that he was ever stumped by any of the questions. Because of the mass chaos I would say it would be impossible to answer any question in an acceptable way to the speaker.
"He's tired, trying to focus, when people are screaming and yelling, calling him stupid. In my opinion you can't expect the guy to give a reasonable answer."