Rantz: UW tried to derail Republican group speech at last minute

Feb 6, 2019, 6:05 AM

patriot prayer, joey gibson...

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson at a May Day rally in Seattle on May 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

At the last minute, administrators at the University of Washington seemingly tried to derail a planned speech. It’s the latest effort the college has taken that could be seen as trying to prevent the UW College Republicans (UWCRs) from holding events with conservative speakers.

On Jan. 3, the UWCRs attempted to book a room suitable to host about 200 people for a speech by Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson that was to take place on Feb. 9. But, emails show, the Time Schedule and Room Assignment Office, didn’t respond for two weeks – Jan. 17 – to explain that the requested room was not available.

Rather than help the UWCRs find an available space, the office was silent, despite exasperated attempts by the UWCR for assistance.

“Okay. We need to get a room booked asap; we’re not set on any particular room. What are our options?” Boaz Brown, UWCR Director of Events, emailed on Jan. 18.

After four days of no response, Brown emailed again: “We need to get a room booked by tomorrow. What rooms are available for that Saturday?“

This time, finally, a room was booked at Gowen 301, on Jan. 23.

If the UWCRs thought this would be the end of their room booking nightmare, UW officials had another hurdle planned — intentional or not. On Jan. 31, about a week before the scheduled and highly publicized event, the UWCRs were told that UW Police had security concerns with the location of the speech. UW Police Department’s Chris Jaross wrote, in part:

We were able to walk the area and building for a risk and security assessment for the event. We have serious concerns about Gowen 301 as the venue for the Joey Gibson lecture. One of the major concerns is the Ingress and egress for emergency vehicles to gain access to the building. With a potential crowd outside of the venue getting the fire department to the venue in a timely manner could be difficult. It would be very Staffing intensive to secure all the entrances in to Gowen Hall.

At this point, their room request was denied and the UWCRs were left to find an alternative room. The club hoped UW staffers would help, since, as Brown noted in an email to the UWPD, securing the venue the first time around was time-intensive and, of course, they were running out of time. Jaross simply replied, “No, the rescheduling would be your responsibility.”

To be clear, the security concerns are valid. Antifa has indicated they will show up to fight back against what they call fascism from Patriot Prayer by trying to prevent Gibson from speaking under the threat of violence, which ironically, is fascistic.

But UW was very slow to book the space originally, then, at the last minute, pulled the plug without helping to accommodate. Whether intentional or not, it seemed like they were trying to cancel or postpone the event. And, given the context, there’s reason to be suspicious of the UW’s motives: You’ll recall the school was sued — and had to settle — after attempting to use onerous security fees as a way to silence UWCR events.

“I think that they did it out of security concerns by antifa as they said, but they were being uncooperative with us, refusing to help us find a room and even refusing to give clear guidelines for what the new room should have,” UWCR President Chevy Swanson tells the Jason Rantz Show. “They continue to treat the threats toward us by antifa as though we are causing the problems. Whether intentional or not, waiting until the Friday a week before the event made it impossible to get a new room in time. It was clear that postponing the event was the goal of this request for whatever reason.”

Brown then attempted to find another space in a nearby building, but found himself in bureaucratic hell. He initially went through the Time Schedule and Room Assignment Office.

“This was especially troubling, considering we had just spent about two weeks bombarding this office with emails (most of which remain unanswered),” Brown told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

This time, however, they did respond — but forwarding him to another contact who denied his request. He tried for another room, but that, too, was rejected.

“We completed every task they asked for in under an hour, but the responses were slow and we were running out of time,” Brown explained to me.

Brown and the UWCRs would not take no for an answer. He emailed the uncooperative UW staffers on Feb. 4: “If we do not have a new room by 5 p.m. today, we will proceed to host the event in our currently reserved room, Gowen 301. If UWPD bars us from using Gowen 301, we will use Red Square. We will not postpone this event.”

The threat to hold the event outside worked.

Suddenly, the security concerns with the original hall weren’t valid enough to cancel the event. Perhaps this was the UW sincerely hoping to host the speech, despite their clear misgivings. Or perhaps this was about fearing what angry, progressive activists the event on Red Square would attract.

“If Gowen 301 is the only venue that you have secured for the lecture on Saturday then we will work with you to make sure that the venue is safe for all to attend,” UWPD’s Jaross emailed Brown on Feb. 4. “We would like to meet with you tomorrow so we can walk through the venue so we are all on the same page for the operations of the event. Our goal is to make sure your event is successful and safe for all.”

Ultimately, Brown doesn’t think the UWPD wanted to shut down their event. But he wasn’t happy with how the process unfolded.

“Ultimately, I do not blame UWPD for trying to make the event easier to secure,” Brown explained. “However, I do blame them for making us go through a slow, bureaucratic system at the last minute. It was a mistake, and I do not hold it against them. As of our latest meeting, we’ve laid the groundwork to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Now, the event will go on as planned, with nearly 300 expected to attend. And while the planning was an unusual hassle, the UWCRs are hoping it’ll go on without a hitch. With antifa threatening to show up, though, that seems unlikely.

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Rantz: UW tried to derail Republican group speech at last minute