Lucian Wintrich, a political commentator for the far-right pro-Trump website Gateway Pundit, was arrested on Tuesday (28 November) following an altercation that broke out during his speech at the University of Connecticut (UConn).
According to an account of the incident on Facebook, the White House correspondent was the speaker for an event titled "It Is OK To Be white," in which he was expected to "discuss identity politics, liberal victimhood, anti-conservative bias and other hot-button issues". However, midway through his time at the podium, audience members began to walk out of the Andre Schenker Lecture Hall.
Wintrich stepped into the crowd and grabbed a woman. The act triggered violence, with people pushing and shoving each other.
"Video of the altercation shows that the guest appeared to remove paperwork from the lecturn where Mr. Wintrich was speaking, and that he followed the woman into the audience, where the altercation occurred," UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said.
News 8 reported that a student broke a window of the hall and another threw a smoke bomb into the premises, before the UConn authorities were able to arrest Wintrich for assualting the female student.
The UConn College Republicans-sponsored event was expected to elicit strong responses and the university released a statement ahead of it, clarifying that it was not sponsoring or organising the speech. "UConn does not bar speakers on the basis of content. Free speech, like academic freedom, is one of the university's bedrock principles," the statement read (via AP). "That being said, a particular speaker's or group's presence on campus doesn't indicate UConn's endorsement of the presenter or their message."
A number of activists and protestors attended Wintrich's speech and continually interrupted him with shouts like "Go home, Nazi" and "Black lives matter". The speaker deviated from his planned material to react to some of the jibes which aggravated the crowd further.
After the walk-out, around 100 students gathered near the entrance of the hall waiting for the police to escort Wintrich outside. The officers chose instead to use a back entrance as students chased after them.
"This is despicable, and Connecticut Democrats condemn this violence — and the white supremacy Mr Wintrich was peddling — in the strongest possible terms," Connecticut Democratic Party Executive Director Michael Mandell said in a statement in response to the fight.
"Time after time, from Trump's attacks on immigrants and proposed Muslim ban, to neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, JR Romano and Connecticut Republicans have stood idly by, or even defended white supremacists or their antics. Today, a white supremacist invited by Connecticut Republicans physically attacked a student. This is our backyard."
Later on Tuesday, Wintrich posted on Twitter announcing that he was out of police custody. "IM FREE & regained my Twitter. I will be posting the FULL speech tomorrow via The Gateway Pundit," he wrote online.