In September, Dillard University, the historically Black educational institution in New Orleans, agreed to be the site for a political debate between candidates for the U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. It was agreed that the debate would be scheduled as a television event and would not be open to the public. Under the rules of the debate, any candidate who had met the threshold of attracting 5 percent of the vote in pre-election polls would be invited to the event.
David Duke, a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, had declared his candidacy for the Senate seat and a late poll showed him with polling numbers that exceeded the threshold for an invitation to the debate. Thus, Dillard University was faced with the prospect of having a former official of the Ku Klux Klan visit and speak on campus.
Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he explored options but that a refusal to hold the debate “would have created not only bad press but possible litigation.”
The university stuck by its agreement with the television station to be the site of the debate. But David Duke’s presence on campus was met with protests. Six protestors were arrested including one Dillard University student. Police used pepper spray to stop protestors who were trying to force their way into the auditorium where the debate was being held. The next day, charges against the protestors were dropped.