The UW College Republican club threatened to file a lawsuit against the University of Washington for telling them to pay $17,000 for security costs to put on a rally on Red Square this upcoming weekend.
After the club invited Patriot Prayer, a conservative Vancouver, Wash. group, to come to a rally at Red Square, university officials ordered them to pay a fee for police to keep the area secure. The club referred to the fee as unconstitutional and plans to fight it.
William Becker, a lawyer representing the club, said the university’s actions “violate fundamental principles of free speech, equal protection, and due process guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
“By requiring UWCRs (College Republicans) to pay security fees based on the potential reaction of those opposed to the viewpoints expressed, the University is exercising unbridled discretion inherent in its written policy to impose an unconstitutional heckler’s veto,” Becker said.
Club president Chevy Swanson said the university informed the club about the fee in the middle of January, but didn’t provide them with a figure until last week.
“We asked for a reasoning for the cost, and they said that deployment specifics cannot be discussed with us, and that we would have to trust them on that number,” Swanson said.
UW Police Chief John Vinson wrote in a statement that, “UWPD is committed to providing a safe environment that allows speakers, their hosts and others to be heard, but the university cannot continue to bear the significant costs associated with such events.”
Vinson added that $17,000 is just the estimated fee that includes “an analysis of violence and threats to public safety by the invited speaker, attendees at previous events or the sponsoring group — both in and out of the state of Washington — as well as the date, time and location of the proposed event. Security cost estimates are not based on a speaker or group’s ideology or political position.”
Last January, Milo Yiannopoulus, a controversial right-wing provocateur, was invited to speak at the University of Washington by the UW Republicans and cost the university $75,000, including $20,000 in costs for UW police and $53,335 for the Seattle Police Department.
During his speech, a violent protest broke out and a 34-year-old man was shot and critically wounded.
Former UW Republicans president Jessie Gamble said that community members and students tried to stop the speech, but it still sold out. She believed the event would be peaceful.
Read more legal news articles, including about the lawsuit against Berkeley over a Milo Yiannopoulos Speech, on Cohen & Cohen.