Security is high priority for His Holiness the Dalai Lama - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Security is high priority for His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- The Dalai Lama is spending the day at the University of Northern Iowa, where the spiritual leader is holding events dealing with peace and education.

The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader's first event was Tuesday morning, when he joined other panelists for a discussion of educating for a nonviolent world. Later in the day, the Dalai Lama gave a speech about education and its importance in our increasingly global society.

This is the 74-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate's first visit to Iowa. His trip is part of a tour through the Midwest. He's already given talks in Indiana and Madison, Wis.

On Monday afternoon, the University of Northern Iowa welcomed the Dalai Lama during a private reception. It's just one of several times security officials will be on high alert over the next two days.

Tuesday morning at eight, the U.S. State Department performed a final security check. But as you might imagine, preparing a safe visit for the Dalai Lama has taken months of preparation.

UNI has seen it's share of high profile visitors, but security officials said none compare to the required security measures for His Holiness.

"The Prince of Saudi Arabia was here two years ago. That was quite small compared to this," noted Lt. Joe Tyler.

At least a dozen Secret Service members are in Cedar Falls.

"Their number one duty is to protect the person who's coming here, which is the Dalai Lama. Obviously, we're responsible for everything else," Tyler said.

"His motorcade, every time it takes off, it requires nine or ten vehicles," added Director of Public Safety David Zarifis.

UNI, Waterloo, and Cedar Falls police are providing security, along with Black Hawk County Sheriff Deputies and State Troopers.

"We can only control the environment so much, but what we can control, we want to make sure that's done for the safety of not only the Dalai Lama, but the people participating in the event as well," Zarifis said.

One thing they can't control, is the Dalai Lama himself. He's known for being a little spontaneous. Case in point - Monday's reception.

"He got out of the limousine or the car that he was coming in, and we had probably 20-25 people across the street from where he pulled up at the Gallagher-Bluedorn, and he came out and greeted almost every one of them. Very generous. He wants to make the people who come out to see him feel special, and he did that today," Tyler said.

UNI police are adding to the security of Tuesday's event with a Freedom of Speech, or protest, area. Zarifis said he likes to consider the entire campus a free speech area. But this allows protestors to express their opinions, while, at the same time, keeping the area safe and preventing blocked traffic.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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