Protesting a racist speaker at UConn

December 5, 2017

Austin Telford reports from Connecticut on a protest to confront a racist speaker.

HUNDREDS OF anti-racists mobilized to protest an alt-right provocateur invited to speak by the University of Connecticut College Republicans on the topic "It's OK to Be White."

Lucian Wintrich, a figure on the alt-right who got credentials from the new Trump administration to be a White House correspondent for the right-wing Gateway Pundit, faced a roomful of people chanting and peppering him with questions.

Wintrich demanded that security officers escort anyone disruptive out of the building--and then assaulted a woman student who picked up a piece of paper from the podium, putting her in a rear headlock before ripping the paper out of her hand. Wintrich was arrested for the attack.

Wintrich was supposed to give his speech to the Republican club in a small classroom, but that all changed when the flyer went viral among students at UConn as well as Central Connecticut State University and Southern Connecticut State University.

Large numbers were outraged at the fact that Wintrich was coming to one of the largest schools in the state to deliver his hateful rhetoric. Immediately we began to organize.

Students protest against alt-right provocateur Lucian Wintrich at the University of Connecticut
Students protest against alt-right provocateur Lucian Wintrich at the University of Connecticut

About an hour before the event started, the presentation was moved to a larger lecture hall after the club got word of the planned protest.

BEFORE THE doors even opened, there was a line with about 200 people waiting, most of them protesters. Police limited entry into the event, ultimately leaving several hundered students and faculty members outside in the cold, where they chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "Nazis Go Home!"

Inside the lecture hall, student protesters live-streamed the presentation. Wintrich, who brands himself as an anti-multiculturalist, bashed everyone from Muslims to African Americans to immigrants. Of course, he mentioned nothing about inequality or the scandals surrounding the Trump administration.

Wintrich became outraged at the defiant crowd's chanting and questions, and demanded that UConn police clear the room of any of his opponents.

At this point, while protesters were being escorted out of the building, those of us already outside were pushed up against a glass window, causing it to break accidentally. This gave campus police the excuse they needed to break up the demonstration.

Inside, when Wintrich attacked the protester, one of his supporters followed him and began to push students away, while the UConn police grabbed him and dragged him into a restroom.

Protesters outside who were demanding that Wintrich be arrested for this assault faed a a line of police officers guarding the door to make sure no students nor staff could get inside to confront the racists. Though Wintrich was eventually placed under arrested, the police priority was clearly to protect the right-winger from the crowd.

One student, Ernest D., was injured when an officer swung a door open, hitting him in the head and arm. When Ernest complained about the injury, the officer attempted to detain him. Protesters intervened, and Ernest was pulled safely into the crowd.

Moments after this, police set off smoke bombs around the building as a diversion, and then rushed Lucian to the police car and drove off with him in the back seat.

The alt-right and far right have identified college campuses as a place for recruitment. Hate speech against Muslims, Black, women and LGBTQI people is being peddled as legitimate dialogue.

White supremacists like Richard Spencer get a platform to speak on campuses like the University of Florida, despite his part in the Klan-esque, torchlight march during the far right's orgy of hate violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Yet university administrators seem more content to collect fees from racist speakers, while target left-wing professors, such as Trinity College's Dr. Johnny Eric Williams, for repression.

The right wing is emboldened, they won't go uncontested in Connecticut. We will protest the right whenever they mobilize on our campuses and in our cities--and send the firm message that racist fear is not welcome here!

Further Reading

From the archives