STORRS, Conn. (AP/WTNH) – A fight broke out at a speech being held at the University of Connecticut on Tuesday night.
UConn’s College Republicans student group was sponsoring the appearance, entitled, “It’s OK To Be White,” featuring 29-year-old conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich.
Wintrich is the White House correspondent for the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit, which said the talk would be about “identity politics” in today’s cultural and political landscape.
During the speech, a fight broke out and officers removed Wintrich from the room.
News 8’s Mario Boone reports that windows were broken amid the chaos and that officers arrested Wintrich for allegedly assaulting a student who grabbed his speech off of the podium.
A student, 19-year-old Sean Miller, of Glastonbury, was arrested on breach of peace charges for allegedly breaking windows as people were leaving the event.
A smoke bomb also was thrown inside the auditorium and is being investigated.
A statement released by the university prior to the event reads the following:
Tonight’s speaker is hosted by the UConn College Republicans, a student organization. UConn and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) are not sponsors or organizers, and the event does not involve tuition or public money.
UConn does not bar speakers on the basis of content. Free speech, like academic freedom, is one of the university’s bedrock principles. That being said, a particular speaker’s or group’s presence on campus doesn’t indicate UConn’s endorsement of the presenter or their message. Any student group is free to reserve on-campus space for a speaker or other program as long as the event adheres to UConn’s guidelines, which apply to all student groups and on-campus programming.”
UConn’s College Democrats said they were sponsoring a discussion before the speech so activists from across the campus community could express their views.
Connecticut Democratic Party Executive Director Michael Mandell released a statement on the incident, saying:
This is despicable, and Connecticut Democrats condemn this violence – and the white supremacy Mr. Wintrich was peddling – in the strongest possible terms. Time after time, from Trump’s attacks on immigrants and proposed Muslim ban, to neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, JR Romano and Connecticut Republicans have stood idly by, or even defended white supremacists or their antics. Today, a white supremacist invited by Connecticut Republicans physically attacked a student. This is our backyard.
“Now is not the time for silence. We’re calling on the Connecticut Republican Party to join us and forcefully condemn this attack – and the UConn GOP’s decision to invite an alt-right speaker in the first place. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our society, and the UConn Democrats showed how it could be achieved peacefully, holding a discussion with activists and protesters beforehand to discuss concerns about Mr. Wintrich’s remarks. The contrast could not be clearer.”
Following the incident, UConn released a statement that read, in part:
…Video of the altercation shows that the guest appeared to remove paperwork from the lectern where Mr. Wintrich was speaking, and that he followed the woman into the audience, where the altercation occurred.
No injuries were reported and no additional arrests have been made at this time.
UConn Police also are investigating an incident in which someone broke a window in the lecture hall as the crowd was leaving and threw a smoke bomb inside. This led to speculation as to whether police had discharged tear gas, but that was not accurate – no tear gas was used or needed…
UConn and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) were not sponsors or organizers of the event.
UConn does not bar speakers on the basis of content. Free speech, like academic freedom, is one of the university’s bedrock principles…
…That being said, a particular speaker’s or group’s presence on campus doesn’t indicate UConn’s endorsement of the presenter or their message. Any student group is free to reserve on-campus space for a speaker or other program as long as the event adheres to UConn’s guidelines, which apply to all student groups and on-campus programming.
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