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Students attempting to protest Vice President Joe Biden’s appearance at Wright State University on Wednesday were removed at the direction of the Secret Service to a “free-speech zone” far from the campaign event.
The incident, captured on video, depicts a small group of students holding Romney/Ryan and “Defeat Obama” signs as they were approached by contracted security officials who directed them to move to an area designated for “free speech.”
Secret Service spokesman Max Millien acknowledged on Friday in an interview with Campus Reform that the students were moved by the security guard at the Secret Service’s direction in order to further protect Vice President Biden.
“The Secret Service respects everyone’s right to freedom of speech but we also have a duty to provide a safe and secure environment,” said Millien.
“The Secret Service has two zones,” he added. “There is a secure zone and a general public area.”
After the students complied with the first request to move, they were again instructed to move – this time to the middle of a field, about a quarter mile away from the area where Biden planned to speak.
Assistant Director of Public Relations at Wright State University, Jim Hannah, confirmed to Campus Reform that as a security precaution Secret Service “didn’t want the protesters to be too close to the motorcade.”
WATCH: Secret Service directs removal of student protesters away from Biden campaign event
“In this case of the Vice President in the motorcade… you don’t want to have them getting too close to the motorcade… you just want to maintain the security,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) told Campus Reform that students should be allowed to exercise their right to free speech anywhere on campus as long as they were not disruptive.
“Assuming that the protest was not disruptive in any way, then requiring [the students] to be in a free speech zone is not appropriate,” said spokeswoman Samantha Harris.
FIRE has given Wright State University a “red light” rating for implementing policies that they argue prohibit speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Follow the author of this article on twitter: @oliverdarcy.
@linnieleavines also contributed to this report.
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