Police arrest masked men who disrupted classrooms at KU

Kansas University Public Safety officers arrested two men who disrupted at least two classes on campus Wednesday while wearing Guy Fawkes masks, events that led students across campus to fear for their safety.

KU public safety spokesman Capt. James Anguiano said officers took the men in for questioning. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, KU public safety had the men detained, but no arrests or citations had been issued, Anguiano said.

Anguiano said officers did not know whether the incidents were pranks or serious public safety concerns. In a campus wide alert, KU public safety said no weapons were found.

In several videos circulating on social media, an individual wearing a Guy Fawkes mask is warning full classrooms about possible consequences for the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

Kappa Sigma was suspended last month after allegations surfaced that multiple instances of sexual misconduct occurred during a party at the house homecoming weekend. No arrests have been made in connection with the allegations.

“We are coming for you,” the masked man said in the video. “All members who do not dissociate themselves from this fraternity will be seen as guilty parties, and they will be dealt with accordingly.”

Officers spoke with members of the fraternity Wednesday afternoon, but Anguiano said at this point, he “doesn’t know if Kappa Sigma is in any threat.”

Nov. 5 is Guy Fawkes Day, the day the British commemorate the Gunpowder Plot, in which conspirators aimed to blow up the English Parliament in 1605. The Fawkes mask has become a symbol of modern protest and is often used by the activist group Anonymous. The day and the Fawkes masks were made newly famous by the graphic novel and the 2006 film “V for Vendetta.”

After discovering the two men, Anguiano said officers conducted a sweep of Wescoe Beach, which appeared in an anonymous tweet to be a target, and didn’t find anything irregular.

“It is still early in the investigation and we’re not going to violate someone’s First Amendment rights with just walking around on campus in a mask,” Anguiano said. “The issue was disorderly conduct.”

Disorderly conduct could result in a ticket or an arrest, “depending on cooperation,” Anguiano said.

Students taking to Twitter said classes were disrupted in Wescoe Hall and Budig Hall. KU police said classes in “at least two buildings” were interrupted. A video from an interrupted class showed one of the masked individuals quoting a variation on a speech from the 1940 Charlie Chaplin film “The Great Dictator.”

One of the men was wearing a GoPro camera on his chest and made reference to broadcasting video to the Internet.

Sophomore Casey Gamble said she appreciated that the group might have aimed to bring renewed focus to the sexual assault allegations, but the tactics used were inappropriate.

“I like the idea of trying to bring attention back to sexual assault, but they were doing it, quite frankly, in a misguided manner,” Gamble said. “People were terrified to go outside afterward.”

Gamble said as soon as the first class was interrupted, the news spread rapidly across campus by social media, text messages and the anonymous messaging app, “YikYak.”

Gamble said the university did not notify the students of the events until two suspects had already been arrested.

“We all found out about it before the university even said anything,” Gamble said. “I’m glad they dealt with the situation, but it would have been nice to have updates to feel safe.”

Campus officials sent an initial alert at 2:30 p.m., about an hour after the first reports of a disruption. KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said the decision to send out the alert was made by both KU public safety and the university. Neither she nor Anguiano would comment on the timing of the alert.

Anguiano said the investigation is ongoing and those with information are asked to contact KU police at 785-864-5900.