A controversial speech at the University of Connecticut Tuesday night ended up in chaos, with students in the audience shouting at the speaker and the speaker arrested over an altercation with an audience member who appeared to take his notes.
The speaker was Lucian Wintrich, a conservative writer who was invited to campus by UConn's Republican group for a talk called "It's OK to Be White."
That tagline has become controversial, as it has shown up on posters on numerous college campuses across the country, prompting many students and others to say the slogan is racist. It's not that critics say it's not OK to be white, but they view the tagline as a way some are attacking the Black Lives Matter movement and other efforts to point out racial injustice in society. Further, critics say that the slogan has become a way to encourage white people to believe that they are victims of discrimination. (A summary of this critique may be found in this article in The Root.)
Some on campus questioned why the talk was taking place, but UConn officials said that even if they disagreed with the speaker's views, his right to speak was protected by the First Amendment.
During Wintrich's talk, students and others in the audience repeatedly shouted at him. His arrest came after an audience member appeared to grab his notes and he followed her into the audience. He was charged with breach of peace and was escorted from the building. One other arrest was made, with a man charged with allegedly breaking a window in the building where the event took place, as people were leaving. Videos of the event show many students waited for Wintrich to be led out of the building. Both of those arrested were released on bond.
In a series of tweets, Wintrich said that he should not have been arrested, and that he was simply trying to obtain property (his speech notes) that had been taken from him.
"It's really unfortunate that some of the kids at @UConn felt the need to be violent and disruptive during a speech that focused on how the leftist media is turning Americans against each other. Tonight proved my point," he wrote in one of the tweets.
Update as of 9:30 Wednesday morning: A spokeswoman for the university, asked Wednesday morning about whether the person who grabbed the papers may have violated any rules or laws, said that the police are investigating "all behaviors" at the event, not only those that have already led to arrests. But she said she didn't know whether the taking of the papers was subject of a particular investigation. She said police continue to review video of the incident.
Susan Herbst, president of UConn, issued a statement late Tuesday that said, in part, “This was a very disappointing evening. Thoughtful, civil discourse should be a hallmark of democratic societies and American universities, and this evening fell well short of that. We live in a tense and angry time of deep political division. Our hope as educators is that creative leadership and intellectual energy can be an antidote to that sickness, especially on university campuses. Between the offensive remarks by the speaker who also appeared to aggressively grab an audience member and the reckless vandalism that followed, that was certainly not the case on our campus tonight. We are better than this."
Here is a local television report with some footage of the event.