About five campus police officers and a bomb-sniffing dog swept Auditorium B of Angell Hall last night before a speech by a strident critic of Islamic fundamentalists.
Rumors that the event would be disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters circulated through campus and on the Internet yesterday, prompting event organizers to request a heightened police presence.
Despite the precautions, pro-Israel activist Brigitte Gabriel delivered a lecture in which she warned Americans about “the dangers of Islamic radicals” without incident.
Organizers feared pro-Palestinian protesters would disrupt the speech as they did at the Michigan League during a lecture on Iran last week. During that lecture, Department of Public Safety officers arrested three Ann Arbor residents after they resisted efforts from police to remove them from a lecture on Iran.
One protester was taken to the hospital with minor cuts and a bloody nose, and his fellow protesters alleged police brutality. DPS is investigating the incident.
Blaine Coleman, one of the protesters who was arrested on Thursday, did not respond to e-mails asking for comment last night.
Police used a canine unit to search the auditorium before allowing students and community members to enter at 7:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the event was scheduled to begin.
DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said before the event that DPS had briefed organizers on security precautions and the University’s Free Speech policy.
None of the protesters who disturbed Thursday’s lecture showed up.
The lecture, which was originally scheduled in Auditorium C of Angell Hall, moved to Auditorium B to accommodate a larger than expected crowd. The larger auditorium filled quickly after the doors opened.
Before introducing Gabriel, organizers opened the event by reading from the University’s statement on Free Speech and Artistic Expression.
Rumors on the Internet yesterday indicated that the event could be confrontational.
An e-mail signed with Gabriel’s name was posted on the thecoversativevoice.com. The e-mail requests support and protection from protesters, who it alleges have sent e-mails to “Arab students” asking them to “give Gabriel a proper welcome.”
Shimaa Abdelfadeel, co-chair of the pro-Palestinian group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality and political chair of the Muslim Students’ Association, said she had not heard of or seen such an e-mail.
Except for frequent applause during a question-and-answer period, the crowd remained calm and quiet throughout the event.
Gabriel is the author of “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America.” Gabriel, who now lives in the United States, said her negative views on Muslim fundamentalists were shaped by her childhood experiences as a Lebanese Christian during the Lebanese Civil War. The book describes her experiences living in a bomb shelter for seven years during the war.
Gabriel founded the American Congress for Truth, a nonprofit organization that she describes as “dedicated to educating millions of uneducated Americans on the threat of Islamic radicals.”
Police were highly visible at last night’s event, which was hosted by the pro-Israel student group Israel Initiative for Dialogue, Education and Action.
LSA junior Brad Stulberg, a cofounder of Israel IDEA, said the group tries to host one big event a year. They said they chose Gabriel to foster dialogue.
“Despite potential threats to Ms. Gabriel’s freedom of speech, the event was very successful,” Israel IDEA member Nick Israel said. “We were glad to see an audience composed of a diverse cross-section of the student body and the local community.”
Organizers collected audience questions on note cards and posed them to Gabriel.
Israel said organizers tried to select questions that challenged her position.
Gabriel called for Islam to reform itself and said Israelis and Palestinians hold different ethical standards.
“(The mainstream television networks) need to take political correctness and shove it in the garbage where it belongs,” she said.