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Peace Week stayed peaceful, thanks largely to careful planning, tight security

Florida Atlantic University got a taste of Tibet recently when the world-renowned religious and political leader, 14th Dalai Lama, made a visit to the Boca Raton campus.

While motivating to many students, his lectures are often extremely controversial to members of the Muslim religion, and there have been instances in which Muslims congregated outside of his lectures and protested his ideals.

FAU was expecting those crowds and prepared extensively for the day of the lecture in late February.

Preparations for his visit began in December, shortly before winter break, and FAU announced the visit to the college community on Jan. 13.

His Holiness’s security was one of the biggest concerns when setting up the venue, while ensuring that members of the media received professional courtesies, and that students received a fair chance of winning tickets.

The event was the centerpiece of the first annual Peace Week, and just over 4,000 people attended.

FAU’s Police Department had anticipated the large crowd and asked the Boca Raton Police Department to assist and provide and strong, secure front.

“FAU was required to extend an offer to Boca Raton’s Police Department, but I’ve heard some officers say they would have done it anyway,” said Alexander Van Mecl, president of the Mission Green Student Association and the only student on the Peace Week Committee.

Security was extensive and was implemented in key sequences.

The lecture took place inside FAU’s basketball arena, also know as “The Burrow.” Volunteers spent the night before installing metal detectors and preparing a stage, seating and a media room on the second floor.

News media representatives started to arrive at the venue 6 a.m. and obtained media passes. They were forced to wait and mingle for several hours before being prompted to file into one line so that bomb-sniffing dogs could check their media gear, such as laptops and video cameras, for explosives. They were then allowed to enter the arena at 8 a.m.

At 9 a.m. the audience entered the arena through metal detectors at the main entrance. Police monitored the process. Officers also stood sentinel around the stage.

Many of the officers, while working early in the morning, were not on overtime shifts. They were providing security as part of their job assignments for the day.

“There were approximately 50 law enforcement officers present,” FAU Police Chief Charles Lowe said. “Over half were FAU officers, with the remaining officers divided between Boca Raton Police Department and the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service.”

The FAU police chief declined to comment further on security for the Dalai Lama lecture to protect the plans for future on-campus events.

However, Lowe said, “The Diplomatic Security Service expressed appreciation for our planning and execution of security for the event. They were very pleased with the combined effort of FAU and the Boca Raton Police Department.”



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