University Police are responding to Yik Yak posts that threatened violence against students protesting an on-campus speech by Allen West, a former Republican congressman and former chair of the Texas Republican Party, the university said in a statement Thursday.
“If they keep yelling it’s gonna become target practice,” one anonymous poster wrote.
UPD didn’t have reason to believe that the threats were “specific” or “actionable,” Chief of University Police Chris Bartolomei said prior to the speech.
UPD had an “increased presence” at West’s speech and has reached out to the FBI’s Hate Crimes Unit for assistance in investigating the threat.
Spectrum reporters counted at least 10 law enforcement officials present at West’s speech in 145 Student Union.
“We are taking the situation seriously and implementing additional measures and precautions to protect the campus community,” Bartolomei said in the statement. “Safety is always our foremost concern.”
All Yik Yak posts are anonymous. It remains unclear at this time who made the posts, although they likely came from within a five-mile radius of UB’s North Campus, where students could view the posts.
West was invited to deliver his speech, titled “America is not racist,” by Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth activism organization recognized as a special interest club by the Student Association. Dozens of students protested West’s speech earlier Thursday by marching through the Academic Spine with signs reading “Racism is real” and “Black voices matter.” The protests culminated on the fifth floor of Capen Hall, where students demanded a chance to meet with UB President Satish Tripathi.
Dozens of students also protested West during his speech. They crowded the area outside SU 145 and surrounded the doors, while chanting slogans like “No justice, no peace” and “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Allen West has got to go.”
University administrators stood by their decision to allow YAF to invite West to speak at UB, saying that SA-sponsored clubs can “invite speakers of their choosing” so long as they abide by university guidelines and state laws.
“As a university, we want to make it very clear that we take very seriously our commitment to providing a safe and welcoming place for all UB students at all times,” Dean of Students Barbara Ricotta, who met with protesting students in Capen Hall, said in a statement. “We stand by our commitment to upholding UB’s core values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect throughout our university.”
This story has been updated to include one of the Yik Yak posts.
Justin Weiss and Julie Frey contributed reporting to this story.
Grant Ashley is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant Ashley is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. He is a political science and (mediocre) Spanish double major. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on Twitter @Grantrashley.