USF heightens security for debate
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012 02:01
University Police (UP) is preparing for the arrival of high-profile personalities and politicians on campus Monday, as well as the general influx of traffic expected with the NBC Republican National Debate.
The channel will host a televised debate with Republican presidential candidates on campus Monday at 9 p.m. In addition, NBC will air shows such as "Hardball with Chris Matthews" at USF that same day.
UP spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel said UP has been working to ensure that the debate location, Theatre I, as well as the area surrounding the Marshall Student Center (MSC), will remain problem-free Monday.
The north side glass doors of the MSC will be closed for use at 7 a.m. Monday, and the southwest conference corridors on the second and third floors will close at 2 p.m. No access will be allowed past a border on the north side of the MSC.
"We do have some security issues with regards to the area and the people involved," Daniel said. "We coordinated with federal and other local agencies to secure those areas. We hope that everything else is business as usual with the University."
He said UP is also expecting protesters and will deal with them appropriately if they become disruptive in any way.
Daniel said protestors will not be confined only to designated free speech zones, as the entire University is considered an open-access area. UP's main concern, he said, is making sure that the protests do not negatively impact any of the day's events.
"We will be looking for people blocking sidewalks or entrances to buildings or disrupting the educational process," he said.
Corey Uhl, an organizer from the USF chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), said SDS plans to protest near the Student Government (SG) watch party in the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, but thinks they will eventually be able to enter the debate.
Uhl, a senior majoring in history, said SDS will be joined by Fight Back Florida to protest the Republican agenda and lack of student access to the debate. They will focus on issues such as abortion and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
He said he does not anticipate any security issues, though.
"It's going to be a very peaceful demonstration, but it will be a protest," he said. "It will be about our free speech issue."
Daniel said students, faculty and staff should look out for and immediately report anything that may seem problematic on the night of the debate. Local law enforcement agencies, such as Tampa Police and Temple Terrace Police, will reinforce campus units, he said.
Daniel said UP does not have information regarding presidential candidates' personal security measures.
"Some prefer to have their own, others may not," he said.
Though an ABC Action News report Tuesday said that UP spokespersons said the U.S. Secret Service will be performing security sweeps, Daniel said that is not something he has any knowledge of, or can confirm.
He said even if the Secret Service was going to be on campus, it is not something that would be public information because of security reasons.
"There's nothing that's requiring them to be (at USF)," he said.
UP will also be monitoring the SG watch party, Daniel said.
Daniel said he predicts a progressive increase in traffic and congestion in the area surrounding USF starting Friday afternoon, and advises the community to brace itself for any inconveniences that may be encountered.
"If you really don't have a reason to be in that area, just avoid the area because it will be a little bit hectic," he said.