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UW acknowledges ‘credible threat of violence,’ but Saturday rally is still on

SEATTLE — The University of Washington is urging people to avoid the campus’ Red Square on Saturday after its police department obtained credible threats of violence.

The Vancouver, Wash.-based conservative group Patriot Prayer is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. in what the College Republicans are billing as a free speech event. As many as 1,000 people are expected to turn out, with some planning counter-protests.

“This week, UWPD obtained credible information that groups from outside the UW community are planning to join the event with the intent to instigate violence,” UW president Ana Mari Cauce wrote in a blog post on the school’s website.

“For the safety of campus visitors and others not associated with the events, several organizations have cancelled or postponed their campus events that day and access to Red Square will be limited. Your safety is important to us and we are taking precautions to ensure the Patriot Prayer event unfolds as peacefully as possible,” she wrote. “However, I encourage you to avoid Red Square, and the surrounding area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday to ensure your own personal safety.”

A federal judge on Friday blocked the UW from forcing the College Republicans to foot a $17,000 bill for security during the event.

Lawyers for both sides are expected back in court after the event for a preliminary injunction hearing to determine whether the UW's policy for billing this and other such events are constitutional.

Last year, a married couple - Elizabeth and Marc Hokoana - were charged in connection with the shooting of a 34-year-old man outside Kane Hall during a protest over a campus speech by controversial right-wing activist Milo Yiannopolous.