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College Republicans say university claims about bomb dogs don’t pass smell test

A+university+police+cruiser+parked+on+Campanile+Walkway.
A university police cruiser parked on Campanile Walkway.

A university police cruiser parked on Campanile Walkway.

Weicheng Han

Weicheng Han

A university police cruiser parked on Campanile Walkway.

by Will Fritz, News Editor

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Controversial conservative figure Milo Yiannopoulos did not visit San Diego State last month, and one student group says the university is not being forthright in its explanation for not approving the event.

University representatives said they did not have the resources to address safety concerns relating to violence at other universities and that up to 20 bomb-sniffing dogs would be necessary to secure Montezuma Hall.

There’s just one problem.

The number of bomb dogs university police say would be necessary to secure the student union exceeds the number of bomb dogs used by at least three major local agencies combined.

SDSUPD Cpl. Mark Peterson said in an email that the potential for conflict at the proposed Yiannopoulos event was considerable.

“Given past incidents at other Milo Yiannopoulos events across the nation, bomb-like devices were identified,” Peterson said. “Thus, (police) had determined that bomb dogs would be a necessary component in securing the venue space.”

Peterson did not say how many bomb-sniffing dogs university police have access to, but a San Diego Police Department spokesman said city police have just five.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department officials said they have none in the entire county.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has four.

Chris Willison of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said his agency does have access to dogs from allied agencies in extreme circumstances.

“Kind of like the Las Vegas incident,” he said.

Willison said it’s difficult to come up with an estimate for how much area one bomb dog can cover, as it can vary widely depending on terrain.

College Republicans President Brandon Jones said requiring 20 bomb dogs to inspect Yiannopoulos’ speaking event seems ridiculous, especially since the College Republicans were only requesting Montezuma Hall as the venue for the event, not the entire student union.

“They were bluffing,” Jones said. “They needed an excuse, I think, to not have Milo come.”

After some back-and-forth about whether an official event had been scheduled, the College Republicans said university officials informed them in an Oct. 3 meeting that the Yiannopoulos event, scheduled for Oct. 29, had been cancelled.

“I think the club feels, as a whole, that we kind of got screwed over, to be completely honest,”  Jones said Nov. 2.  “Now that the date has come and passed, we’ll be able to file legal action against the university and the people who were involved in making that decision.”

San Diego State spokesperson Christine Hutchins said the university did not “cancel” the event, as there was never any confirmed event to cancel in the first place.

She said the event had never been finalized, and that the club had merely requested a hold on the venue space that was subject to a number of requirements, including a security assessment.

“The Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union venue’s footprint is over 200,000 square feet,” Hutchins said in an email. “Based on collective input from the law enforcement planning team, a six-hour lead time is necessary … estimates of approximately 15-20 bomb dogs were noted.”

Jones pointed to Cal State Fullerton, where Yiannopoulos’ Oct. 31 speaking event — two days after the scheduled date of SDSU’s — went on without a hitch, save for eight arrests.

“It’s clear that Cal State Fullerton was able to pull off a fairly safe event with Milo coming,” Jones said, “and the fact that San Diego State is in the same Cal State system as Cal State Fullerton…it’s kind of shady that the event couldn’t happen here at SDSU.

All of the arrestees were protesting Yiannopoulos’ appearance, and only one was detained and taken to jail, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“That’s why the police are there,” Jones said. “That’s what their job is. That’s why we have security at events like this. And so that’s not a Milo issue. That’s a resistance issue. That’s students who are coming out to disrupt the event, and they got arrested for breaking the law. That has nothing to do with the conservative students on campus trying to have a speaker come.”

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