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UB Police investigating reports of harassment following politician's visit

Allen West
Posted at 6:42 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 18:42:25-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) – The University at Buffalo Police Department is investigating reports of harassment that were filed after Allen West's visit to campus Thursday night.

West is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, and former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

West was the speaker for Thursday night's event called, America Is Not Racist—Why American Values are Exceptional.

"It was a great lecture, house was packed," explained Therese Purcell, President of UB's Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The campus club organized the event.

"We want to bring these dialogues to campus," said Purcell. "We think everyone has a right of freedom of speech."

Tension rose in a Q&A session after West spoke, but there was more anger outside the room from students who disagreed with what West had to say.

"He completely dismissed some of the systemic issues," one student told 7News.

When West left, he was surrounded by police, walking by dozens of students shouting, "I'm black and I'm proud."

Once outside students followed West. Purcell said more than 100 students followed her to her car.

"They quickly started running after me, and screaming at me," said Purcell. "I sprinted away, and I darted to the men's bathroom."

Purcell said a friend was punched in the ear, and kicked. UB told 7 News as of Friday afternoon, the only reports campus police received are of harassment, not assault.

Students protesting West's visit said they too felt threatened. One student told 7News there were threats online calling demonstrators "animals," and "target practice."

University at Buffalo released this statement on Friday:

The University at Buffalo is deeply committed to being a safe and welcoming place for all people, and a place where freedom of expression occurs without threats and in a respectful and civil manner.

The university is conducting a thorough review of events and activities leading up to, during and after an appearance by former congressman and retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, including the posting of anonymous social media messages threatening students protesting West’s speech and harassment of students after the speech.

“These events do not define who we as a university are, nor do they define who we aspire to be,” said Barbara Ricotta, UB’s dean of students. “As a university community, we will continue to strive to be a place where all students can express themselves, be heard and live their lives in a welcoming and safe environment that values diversity and inclusion.”

As a public university, all members of the UB community and invited guests have a right to peacefully express their views and opinions, regardless of whether others may disagree.

This includes the right of individuals to oppose the views or opinions of others – including peaceful protests – but not in such a way as to limit or prevent the speaker’s freedom of expression or interfere with university operations.

West was invited to campus by the UB student chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom. Student government-sponsored clubs are permitted to invite speakers to campus, provided they abide by university guidelines and state laws concerning public events on campus.