After a fight and an arrest on the University of Connecticut campus on Tuesday night, conservative speaker Lucian Wintrich spoke with the media before leaving the state.
UConn's College Republican student group sponsored an event with Wintrich, who is the White House correspondent for the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit, at the Andre Schenker Lecture Hall. His speech was titled "It's OK To Be White."
"I think a lot of the students missed out on a spectacular speech that should have gone ahead as planned," Wintrich said.
More than 100 people attended the speech and from the time Wintrich arrived, there was a tense atmosphere.
"I couldn't get through half a sentence without these random chants half of them incoherent and primarily by the way coming from that woman and the handful of people that she brought," Wintrich said.
The speech ended when a female student was seen taking a script from Wintrich’s podium, soon after Wintrich lunged at her and dragged her down to the ground.
Police charged Wintrich with breach of peace. He was released on a $1,000 bond.
Wintrich said he shouldn't have been the one arrested on Tuesday night.
"It's absurd to me that this woman apparently wasn't arrested," Wintrich said.
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 shattered windows.
A short time later, police arrested a suspect connected to breaking a window as people were leaving the event. Police charged 19-year-old Sean Miller of Glastonbury with breach of peace and criminal mischief. Williams was released on a $1,000 bond.
"I took reasonable action as allowed by law to re-obtain stolen property and that was my only copy, hard copy of that speech," Wintrich said
After his arrest, Wintrich said he will seek "legal justice" and plans to file a lawsuit against UConn.
Wintrich claims he plans to sue because “the officers on duty refused to intervene before the situation escalated with the protesters.”
First Amendment lawyer, Daniel Klau, spoke with Eyewitness News on if Wintrich has a case or not, but he says cases like these are “difficult to pursue.”He states that “the police do have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect a speaker from violence, but in this case, it’s hard to tell.” Klau said he doesn’t know enough about this situation to determine if he would be successful in court but says “winning cases like these are difficult because officers were trying to secure the event.” “Anybody can file a lawsuit that says there weren’t enough officers or didn’t act quickly enough but these suits are hard to pursue,” Klau said.
Wintrich took to Twitter shortly after the altercation with his mugshot, with the caption, "It’s Not Ok to be White in New England.”
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.”Gov. Dannel Malloy echoed Herbst's statement afternoon.
"Number one, I think that it is important that we have an exchange of an ideas even those ideas that we don't like on college campuses,” Malloy said. “Number two. we should not be providing stages for people to be racist."
Wintrich will be back in Connecticut on Dec. 11 at Rockville Superior Court.
UConn said they are still reviewing video and more charges and arrests could follow.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie 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."
QVCC told Eyewitness News they have no comment at this time about the events that unfolded.
Eyewitness News spoke with students on the Storrs campus on Wednesday morning who felt as if the events were surprising.
"A little shaken that this happened here because UCONN is very accepting of everyone," UConn freshman Jack Ryan said.
Students said that while they fully support free speech, they said it comes with responsibility.
"The name of the event is innocuous enough, 'It's okay to be white' but the reality is, it's a dog whistle,” said UConn Senior, Timothy Henning. “And when we called him out on that, they seem to play dumb."
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