Authorities in Louisiana were forced to use pepper spray on a crowd of nearly 70 protesters during a U.S. Senate debate at one of the state’s historically black universities Wednesday night, which featured white supremacist David Duke.
Dillard University police used pepper spray twice to try and disperse the protesters who were ttrying to get into the building as the debate started. Police also forcibly separated a group that linked arms at a gate to the campus so a police unit believed to be carrying Duke could exit.
At least one person was detained during the debate and police were seen escorting several away from one of the campus gates but it was unclear if anyone was charged.
There were six candidates on stage, but the focal point of the debate was the former Ku Klux Klan leader even though he lagged in the polls and hasn’t made a big enough splash in politics this time around.
Democratic lawyer Caroline Fayard called Duke a "snake." Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy called Duke a liar. Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said Fayard has been lying about him as she tried to connect him to Duke. Campbell said he has nothing in common with Duke except both men were "breathing."
Republican U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming largely tried to ignore Duke as they sought to distinguish themselves from the major competitors, but the debate turned time and again to Duke, who narrowly reached the 5 percent polling benchmark set by Raycom Media for participation in the debate broadcast across most of Louisiana.
Duke suggested Kennedy, the race's front-runner, tried to raise taxes on homeowners and that all five of his competitors on the stage were "beholden to big money."
In response, Kennedy cited Duke's prison number. Duke spent a year in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to bilking his supporters and cheating on his taxes.
Duke claimed he was "targeted by the government." When moderator John Snell of WVUE-TV interrupted Duke to explain he pleaded guilty to the crime, Duke yelled: "You're a typical media hack!"
Two dozen people are vying Republican David Vitter's seat. He isn't seeking re-election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.