Response to Wednesday night student org event and protest

Thursday, March 3, 2022
 
Dear UNT Community,
 
Last night a registered student organization, Young Conservatives of Texas, hosted a guest speaker at Curry Hall. Because conversations surrounding the student organization’s event, which focused on criminalizing healthcare for transgender children, have been contentious, UNT Police created a plan to ensure their ability to maintain a safe environment for our entire campus community, the student organizers, their guest, and event protestors, requesting advance assistance from both Denton Police and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
 
Based on the event space capacity and for safety purposes, the room was limited to 80 attendees. A few hundred protestors gathered outside the building, holding signs and chanting. The police agencies tasked with maintaining public safety were inside and outside the building. DPS officers were staged at a nearby location as an extra safety precaution.
 
The police believe a small group of protestors not affiliated with the university contributed to escalating the overall protest from peaceful to an aggressive encounter. These actions culminated with a group of protestors swarming police, who were working to safely escort both the guest speaker and student organizers off campus. DPS was called in to assist with maintaining safety.
 
A group of protestors surrounded the police vehicles containing both the student organizers and their guest and attempted to block their exit from the scene by banging on the vehicles and impeding their movement. The officers engaged emergency lights and sounded warning sirens repeatedly while inching forward as other officers assisted in clearing a path for the vehicles to exit safely. We have heard accounts of a protester who was reportedly injured during that time. However, we do not have confirmed details of that report. While overall the event was not without incident, it did end without any reported serious injuries. UNT Police and the other supporting agencies were able to get the student organizers and their guest to safety, while also dispersing the protestors without further incident.
 
We have always touted the importance of freedom of expression and been proud of our students’ ability to speak up for themselves and participate in nonviolent protest. UNT Police have continuously worked to create and maintain an environment safe for all students to express themselves, regardless of topic. As always, campus safety is our top priority, and we will continue working to provide a safe environment for our students. We have always been a passionate community that stands up for our ideals, but last night’s behavior by some individuals is not reflective of the UNT I know and love.
 
Respectfully,
Neal Smatresk
UNT President