USF heightens security for debate
University Police (UP) is preparing for the arrival ofhigh-profile personalities andpoliticians on campus Monday, aswell as the general influx of traffic expected with the NBC Republican National Debate.
The channel will host a televiseddebate with Republican presidentialcandidates 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 surroundingthe 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 corridorson the second and third floorswill close at 2 p.m. No access will be allowed past a border on the north side of the MSC.
“We do have somesecurity 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 becomedisruptive in any way.
Daniel said protestors will notbe confined only to designatedfree speech zones, as the entireUniversity is consideredan open-access area. UP’s main concern, he said, ismaking sure that the protests donot negatively impact any of the day’s events.
“We will be looking for people blocking sidewalks or entrances to buildings or disrupting theeducational 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 FightBack Florida to protest the Republican agenda and lack of student access to the debate. They will focus on issues such asabortion 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 peacefuldemonstration, but it will be aprotest,” he said. “It will be about our free speech issue.”
Daniel said students, faculty and staff should look out for andimmediately 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 presidentialcandidates’ personal securitymeasures.
“Some prefer to have their own, others may not,” he said.
Though an ABC Action News report Tuesday said that UPspokespersons said the U.S. Secret Service will be performingsecurity sweeps, Daniel said that is not something he has anyknowledge of, or can confirm.
He said even if the SecretService was going to be oncampus, it is not somethingthat 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 aprogressive increase intraffic and congestion in the areasurrounding USF startingFriday afternoon, and advises the community to brace itself for any inconveniences that may be encountered.
“If you really don’t have areason to be in that area, justavoid the area because it willbe a little bit hectic,” he said.