A Georgetown University student is condemning actions by fellow students who shouted down Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan as he tried to deliver a planned speech.
Those who came out to hear the secretary at the annual immigration conference on Monday were “disappointed” when he scrapped his speech and left after being interrupted multiple times, Justin Drewer, a Campus Reform correspondent, told Fox News.
(Video: Fox News)
“A lot of my fellow students are disappointed at the behavior of the protesters because we have a unique opportunity as students at Georgetown to have speakers such as Acting Secretary McAleenan — and other government officials — to offer their perspectives and experience with us,” Drewer said on “Fox & Friends: First” Tuesday.
“And, it’s a valuable insight we have into government regardless of the students’ political beliefs,” he added. “I really wish that we could set aside our partisanship and take these opportunities as what they are: very valuable for our education.”
A small group of pro-immigrant protesters disrupted McAleenan’s keynote address at the Migration Policy Institute’s annual conference, chanting slogans and the names of migrant children who have recently died while in custody.
“When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back! When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” the demonstrators yelled. “When children are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
McAleenan, who has been acting secretary since replacing former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, attempted to continue several times after the interruptions and a moderator for the event appealed to the protesters to stop.
“Please, that’s enough now. We hear you. This is a forum where we respect free speech, we respect the right to protest. But with respect to the audience who wants to hear this speaker, let’s save the rest of it for the Q&A period,” she said.
McAleenan gave it another chance and tried to continue his remarks while no attempt was made by school staff to remove the protesters.
“As a career law enforcement professional, I’ve dedicated my career to protecting the right to free speech and all the values we hold dear in America — from all threats,” the secretary, who is also the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said as he was interrupted yet again.
He then packed up his material, thanked the moderator and left the room. leaving the gathered audience disappointed.
Listing the names of migrant children who have died in U.S. custody, they chanted “¡presente!”
McAleenan walked out and did not give his speech.
— Camilo Montoya-Galvez (@camiloreports) October 7, 2019
“By drowning out the Secretary’s remarks, the protesters deprived immigration attorneys, service providers, journalists, advocates, business leaders, law students, and many others in the public who were in the audience from hearing his point of view and engaging in a meaningful dialogue,” the Migration Policy Institute said in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security released McAleenan’s prepared remarks for the benefit of those who were “robbed” of their right to hear him speak.
“The First Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to free speech and assembly,” DHS said in a statement. “Unfortunately that right was robbed from many who were scheduled to speak and attend today’s event at Georgetown.”
Georgetown University Law Center Dean William M. Treanor also issued his regret and said the school was “committed to free speech.”
Dean Treanor of Georgetown Law is less than pleased about @DHSMcAleenan being booed out of #immconf by protestors. Unfortunate that he repeatedly references freedom of speech, which obviously is not applicable to a private university. pic.twitter.com/YbCDtyYsHR
— Ben Orlebeke (@ben_orlebeke) October 7, 2019
“We do not limit speech — either on the content of the view or the person expressing the view…We share our partners’ regret that the audience did not get to hear from the Secretary…Georgetown Law is committed to free speech and expression and the ability of speakers to be heard and engage in dialogue,” Treanor said in a statement.
In his interview with Fox News, Drewer said university officials should have moved the protesters just as they did when a liberal speaker was interrupted by demonstrators.
“The students who came there to hear from the speakers had a right to learn from the speakers,” he said.
“I think since we live in such partisan times and since Georgetown is a very politically-interested school … I think that you’ll see, probably, more protests and more strong opinions among Georgetown students,” he added. “I think that we can do it in a more civil fashion and in a way that doesn’t deprive people of their rights to free speech and access to education.”
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