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Organizers weigh in on Hong Kong panel

Some attendees of the Hong Kong protest panel were involved in conversation that some guests looked on as intimidating during the panel’s intermission.
Photo by Photo by Salma HQ | The Daily TargumSome attendees of the Hong Kong protest panel were involved in conversation that some guests looked on as intimidating during the panel’s intermission.

Rutgers officials have provided The Daily Targum with additional information on the Nov. 11 Hong Kong protest panel sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women (IRW). 

Reports of students removing event advertisements lead the Institute to request additional Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) officers, said Sarah Tobias, associate director of the IRW. 

“Organizers became aware of credible threats to protest and potentially sabotage the event. They knew that tensions around the issue were high: Publicity for the event was repeatedly destroyed, and a video clip of a flyer being aggressively torn down was widely circulated online,” Tobias said. 

Many of the students walked out during the question and answer session and did not stay to listen to the answers from the panelists, Tobias said. 

There was a brief intermission between the presentation and the question and answer session, in which Tobias and others observed a conversation she described as seeming “heated.”

“We noticed a large, predominantly male crowd encircling a woman sitting on the other side of the room, in a way that I perceived as intimidating,” she said.

The panelists were still able to effectively deliver their message, Tobias said.

“I didn't notice anything else about the audience's behavior — but I was focused on the panel itself, not the audience — and only noticed the latter when it made its presence felt,” she said.

The University has received the reports of poster removal but has not identified the perpetrators, said Neal Buccino, a University spokesperson. 

“All allegations of violations of the University Code of Student Conduct are referred to the Office of Student Conduct for investigation,” Buccino said.

Officers wanted to monitor activity at the panel because the event was open to the public and groups had differing views, said RUPD Chief Kenneth Cop. The event, which was held in Trayes Hall, reached capacity, he said. 

“Several prospective attendees were not permitted to enter as a result,” he said. 

No suspicious activity was reported to the RUPD, Cop said, but Tobias witnessed students passing out flyers protesting the event and multiple interruptions from the audience.

“Some audience members voiced loud objections to the ban on photography and significant discontent when they were told to submit questions for the Q&A session via an online form,” Tobias said. “Audience members also repeatedly interrupted the speakers, although never for an extended period.”

The flyers handed out accused Hong Kong protesters of committing "terrorist attacks," according to the Targum. Additionally, students who were opposed to the question and answer system accused the event organizers of preselecting questions.