With less than a week before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Yale, federal and local authorities said they are finalizing security details and planning for public protests.
University Secretary Linda Lorimer said that although protesters will be heavily supervised by authorities, Yale will allow students to use the Old Campus lawn for protests and demonstrations. But administration officials have maintained secrecy regarding specific security precautions planned for Hu’s visit. The decision to open Old Campus to protesters, which was announced in an e-mail to the Yale community Monday afternoon, comes after the University faced criticism from some students who were dissatisfied with the previous plan to confine demonstrations to the New Haven Green.
“In this case, we recognized that we had the opportunity to consider using Old Campus,” Lorimer said. “We thought … it was important to reinforce the University’s commitment to freedom of expression by providing a location to those who wanted to express themselves on a full array of issues.”
Lorimer said this is the first time the use of residential space has been allowed for such a purpose, and she said the decision came after she received a letter from the student activist group Social Justice Network that asked to use parts of campus as protest areas for symbolic reasons. After reading the letter, Lorimer said, she conferred with Yale College Dean Peter Salovey to make available some of the University’s own property.
Many students said they are pleased with Lorimer’s announcement. SJN member Charles Alvarez ’09 said he applauds what he called an “historic” decision on the part of the University to allow greater freedom of expression. The University, Alvarez said, correctly balanced protection for Hu with protection for freedom of speech.
“They always made it clear that it was a security issue, not a freedom of expression issue,” he said. “[But] even at the inaugural parade you can protest a block away, so we thought it was ridiculous. … This decision gives us a new opportunity to present our views.”
Alvarez said he, along with several of his friends, is planning a rally to protest the Chinese government’s human rights record. While he said he is not sure how many students will attend the protest, which he expects will be moved to Old Campus, he has applied for a protest permit for up to 100 people.
Some residents of Old Campus said they hope the protesters will respect students living in the area as they conduct their rallies.
“If it turns out to be a huge mob on Old Campus it would bother me,” Henry Agnew ’09 said. “Sometimes these groups go a little overboard in protesting, [so] I would also hope they would tell the protestors to respect the freshmen living there.”
Neither Lorimer nor representatives of the Yale Police Department could offer more details regarding specific security measures that would be in place on Old Campus, but Lorimer said parts of central campus will be shut down during the day. In addition to road closures, Lorimer said, metal detectors are likely to be used in the area surrounding Sprague Hall, the site of Hu’s address at the corner of College and Wall streets.
In an e-mail sent to Silliman College students yesterday, Silliman Dean Hugh Flick notified students that College and Wall will be closed for the day and that Silliman gates on those streets will be closed. Other than individual e-mails sent by residential college deans, there has been no formal announcement of which streets will be closed to the public. Secret Service representatives declined to provide details regarding federal security measures.
YPD Lt. Michael Patten said he does not find the lack of detailed information about security measures surprising. Federal and local authorities rarely comment on specific security deals for fear of jeopardizing the safety of the visitor, he said.
“In case there’s anyone with bad intentions out there, the less information, the better,” Patten said.
Sean Gallagher, resident agent in charge of the Connecticut office of the Secret Service, said Hu will be given the same level of security as would be provided for President George W. Bush ’68. Hu’s previously scheduled visit was canceled last fall in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.