CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - As Steve Bannon's speech to The Citadel Republican Society draws closer, the school and local authorities are taking steps to make sure both citizens and cadets remain safe.
Bannon is scheduled to speak on Friday at the Holliday Alumni Center on Hagood Ave between Congress and Fishburne Streets. The Charleston Police Department announced Monday that Hagood Avenue from Fishburne Street to Huger Street will be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday. Congress Street from Hagood Avenue to President Street will be closed during the same time frame. An increased police presence in the area is also expected.
"We are working closely with law enforcement agencies to maintain a safe and secure learning environment," Citadel president Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in a statement Monday. "In the days ahead, you will see increased patrols from The Citadel's Public Safety Office and local law enforcement. At this time we have received a request from a local group to conduct a peaceful rally on the West Plaza adjacent to Johnson Hagood Stadium Friday evening. We expect members of the group to arrive around 4 p.m. and remain until the club's event is complete."
Rosa also encouraged anyone not involved in the event to avoid the area and announced all academic offices that support the Corps of Cadets will open at 7 a.m. and release at 1 p.m. Friday. Other campus offices will leave by 12 p.m.
"The Citadel is working with the local authorities to ensure that peaceful rally participants have the same ability to express their views as Mr. Bannon," Rosa said. "We did not invite this public discourse, but we feel strongly that our community and Charleston can continue to be a model for diversity of ideas, and that we should set conditions for a safe and civil exchange of views to occur. Many of our graduates, from all backgrounds, go on to serve in the U.S. military, and these are the rights they defend for all of us, no matter our race, creed, color, orientation or worldview."
Rosa met with community leaders last week to discuss the speech.
"We asked him if there was something he could do to stop it and he said he can't," said Elder Johnson with National Action Network."We understand the free speech, but I think he could have stopped it if he wanted to."
State Representative Wendell Gilliard wrote a letter on "thoughts for uplifting students at the Citadel", saying he opposes Bannon's visit and it would not be appropriate.
"Our position is to build bridges as we continue post Walter Scott, post Mother Emanuel that's our position," Gilliard said."By this hateful gentleman coming here, a known white supremacist, this would be what we call burning bridges."
The speech was first announced on Oct. 26. President Trump and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott were both honored at the dinner in 2015.