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Security to protect candidates and free speech at VP debate at the U

Posted at 12:20 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 14:20:39-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Security is being greatly increased around the University of Utah ahead of Wednesday’s vice-presidential debate.

Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, democrat Joe Biden’s running mate, are both in Utah.

So much planning goes into a large scale event like this to assure that it comes off successfully and peacefully.

The goal is to keep the candidates safe and to have a safe space for those who want to exercise their constitutional rights to demonstrate.

Over the past 24 hours, a perimeter fence has been set up. Behind that, concrete barriers and well-defined checkpoints are in place for officials and media members who have credentials to get into the area where the debate is taking place.

Planning for this debate started more than a year ago and as the event got closer, federal and state officials have been dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s to ensure a balance is established and maintained.

“We have a lot of people whose voices need to be heard, want to be heard and they certainly have the right to do that,” said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Nick Street. “So our first priority is public safety, keeping Utah safe. Our next priority then is going to be protecting the constitutional rights of all people in the state and especially those who want to come here and have their opinions heard.”

Technically the entire U of U campus is a free speech zone.

But the campus is closed right now for fall break so it appears as though the area on 200 South, just below President’s Circle will wind up being a free speech zone.

With this being such a politically charged year, and this event being just weeks away from the election, officials say they are also closely monitoring social media activity to try and stop anyone who might be thinking about trying to disrupt this event or cause harm to others.

The debate is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Kingsbury Hall.

Here's a preview of the 90 minute debate which will have all eyes on Utah.