STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — Last November, Lucian Wintrich spoke at the University of Connecticut where non-students lit off a smoke bomb and smashed windows. One woman was also arrested for stealing his speech. Now, UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz says police are heightening security ahead of another planned talk on Wednesday by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
“The people that will be here will have tickets and students will have to have the UConn IDs with them,” she explained. “If there is disruptive behavior, we will know who they are.”
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One of the biggest security changes will be the venue itself. There are nine ways in and out of the room in case police have to clear it quickly. There’s also a stage separating the speaker from the crowd.
Reitz says seating is limited to only 500 students who will be warned up front of the rules.
“You are not going to shout down a speaker,” Reitz said. “If you try to shout down the speaker, you will be removed. You’ll be asked to leave and/or required to leave.”
The Democrats are having a speaker of their own, Nathan Robinson, at the same time, on a different part of the campus. That may alleviate a lot of protesting.
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UConn police have also been doing background checks and research, says Reitz, to familiarize themselves with the speaker, his message, and crowd reaction.
“We looked up what has happened at other events that Mr. Shapiro has spoken. It appears he is not the person that has antagonized the crowd. The crowds, however, may have been upset by his message,” she explained.
Reitz says protecting the First Amendment is at the top of the list along with safety and security on the UConn campus.