Protesters shut down CIA chief’s university talk – Julian Hattem/TheHill
CIA Director John Brennan was forced offstage during a Friday evening discussion at the University of Pennsylvania after a series of sustained interruptions from protesters.
At least three groups of protesters successively stood up to chant condemnations at the CIA for long stretches during Brennan’s appearance at the Penn Museum, according to reports and videos of the incident.
After the third interruption, moderator and Penn Professor Marjorie Margolies decided to end the event.A video of the incident shows that the crowd twice gave Brennan a standing ovation, at Margolies’s request.
“We’re going to give the CIA director another standing ovation and then we’re calling to call this over,” she said, after more than eight minutes of prolonged protest.
Members of the crowd, who repeatedly booed protesters, could be heard criticizing the protesters and calling for them to leave.
“What you’re doing now is silencing speech,” said Theodore Ruger, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, before the event was ended.
The first interruption took place shortly after Brennan appeared onstage, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.
“Drones kill kids,” yelled one protester. “U.S. out of the Middle East,” yelled another.
The protesters were booed by the crowd and led out of the room after a few minutes.
Two more protesters stood up moments later, as the crowd became visibly tense.
“The CIA is a terrorist group. Human torture is a crime,” one woman yelled.
The Statesman, another Penn publication, reported that the woman then become involved in a physical confrontation with one member of the audience, when she grabbed the audience member’s cane and pushed her back.
Additionally, “a small scuffle” took place as officers attempted to usher one protester out, the news outlet claimed.
At least one of the protesters was a member of Students for a Democratic Society, an activist organization that also protested outside the event on the Ivy League university’s campus.
In a Facebook post advertising the rally outside of the museum, the organization criticized the CIA’s secretive drone program and its history of brutal interrogations, which President Obama and others consider to be torture.