UConn president comments after conservative commentator arrested - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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UConn president comments after conservative commentator arrested on campus

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Conservative speaker Wintrich was arrested at UConn on Tuesday evening. (WFSB) Conservative speaker Wintrich was arrested at UConn on Tuesday evening. (WFSB)
UConn's College Republican student group is sponsoring the appearance Tuesday evening by conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich. (WFSB) UConn's College Republican student group is sponsoring the appearance Tuesday evening by conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich. (WFSB)
STORRS, CT (WFSB/AP) -

A conservative commentator was arrested after an altercation during a controversial speech at the University of Connecticut on Tuesday evening. 

UConn's College Republican student group sponsored an event with conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich, who is the White House correspondent for the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit. His speech was titled "It's OK To Be White."

More than 100 people sat in on the speech and when Wintrich arrived, he was booed by the crowd. Wintrich fired back frequently at the crowd leading to a tense atmosphere. 

To see the full speech, click here. (WARNING: Some of the language was graphic.) 

A female UConn student, during the speech, removed paperwork from the lectern. Wintrich followed the woman back into the group where an altercation occurred. Wintrich was arrested for breach of peace. 

Smoke canisters were released outside of the Andre Schenker Lecture Hall, but UConn police are still investigating who threw the canister. Officers forced students to leave the building. Outside, protesters damaged the building and scattered windows.

This smoke bomb led to speculation of tear gas being used by police, but that was not accurate, according to UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz. 

UConn President Susan Herbst said it "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.," Herbst said in a statement on Tuesday. "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."

Herbst said "something similar will arise" at UConn again "at some point in the near future."

"We will need to learn from this experience and rise to that occasion," Herbst said. “I want to thank the UConn public safety personnel and other UConn staff who were present tonight who handled a difficult situation with characteristic poise and professionalism as they reacted quickly to a highly charged and very challenging situation.”

Reitz said no injuries were reported to police. 

Wintrich has since been released from police custody. (WARNING: Some of the language was graphic.) 

Following his arrest, Wintrich took to social media. 

A second arrest of a UConn student was made by UConn Police. Sean Miller, 19, of Glastonbury, was charged with breach of peace and criminal mischief. He was arrested after allegedly breaking a window as people were leaving the event. He was released on bond. 

Channel 3 did try to interview one of the leaders of the UConn Republicans, but he was unavailable because police wanted to take down his eyewitness testimony.  

Ahead of his speech at the Arjona building, police said they took measures to ensure public safety. Earlier in the day, the Republicans said their flyers advertising the event were torn down or defaced across the UConn campus.

Earlier in the day, Reitz said the university "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," Reitz said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Reitz said that UConn and the Undergraduate Student Government "are not sponsors or organizers" of the event. Reitz added, "the event does not involve tuition or public money."

UConn's College Democrats told The Associated Press they sponsored a discussion an hour before the speech, where activists from across the campus community could express their views.

Channel 3 spoke with students on campus with mixed opinions about the poster and the event. Some feel it goes to far while others said it is simply meant to get attention and doesn't hurt anyone.

"I definitely agree with free speech but there's a point where it can be inappropriate and disrespectful to some people," UConn junior Maddy Abbott said. 

"I think it's perfectly fine everyone's entitled to their views, so I think it's personally OK," UConn senior Shivam Desai said. 

Channel 3 will have more on this story on-air and online. 

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.