PEN America is deeply disturbed by news of Tuesday evening’s events at the University of Connecticut, where conservative commentator and Gateway Pundit blogger Lucian Wintrich had been scheduled to give remarks titled “It’s O.K. To Be White,” sponsored by the UConn College Republicans.

Audience and protesters shouted throughout the hour-long event with expletives and chants, preventing Wintrich from being heard. Near the end of the event, a female student was seen removing Wintrich’s notes from the lectern, prompting him to follow her into the audience and, according to live sources at the event, place her into a chokehold. Wintrich was arrested and charged with breach of the peace after authorities escorted him out of the building. Investigations are also pending for an incident outside the event involving a broken window and smoke bomb subsequently thrown and detonated in the hall. One student has already been arrested and charged in relation to the broken window.

“The chaos and incivility we witnessed yesterday evening from both Mr. Wintrich and students was alarming and unacceptable,” said PEN America Director for Free Expression Research and Policy Katy Glenn Bass. “Students should not have tried to prevent Mr. Wintrich from being heard by the audience. And Mr. Wintrich engaged in completely unconscionable conduct by assaulting a student. Violence is never an acceptable response, no matter how heated an exchange of words becomes. The University of Connecticut must now respond to these events with thought, care, and judiciousness to ensure the campus remains a venue for free expression and academic discourse, as well as a welcoming place for all students.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT
Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: agasparian@pen.org, +1.646.981.0685