Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan tried to deliver remarks at an immigration conference at Georgetown University Law School in Washington on the morning of Oct. 7, but was forced to leave due to shouting from hecklers.
McAleenan was prepared to discuss immigration law and policy and engage in a Q&A with the public.
As he was preparing to deliver his speech, about half a dozen protesters who were among the audience stood up with two banners that read “Hate is not normal” and “Stand with immigrants.” They started chanting: “What do we do when immigrants are under attack? stand up fight back!” or variations like: “Democracy is under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back.”
According to the Washington Free Beacon, several protest groups, many unrelated to the host university, claimed responsibility for the disruption on social media.
Event hosts tried to calm and stop the hecklers, and security could be seen around them, but they weren’t stopped.
“Please, that’s enough now,” an event organizer said. “This is a forum. We respect free speech, we respect your right to protest. But in respect to this audience who wants to hear the speaker, let’s save the rest for the Q-and-A period. Thank you very much, please be seated.”
The hecklers would not stop their mantras.
“You’re robbing the rest of this audience of an opportunity to engage in the dialogue that is important to have on the university campus,” said Meissner. “Please have some respect for this audience who came here to listen to this speech … You may stay standing, but please stop shouting.”
“Thanks, Doris. We’ll give it one more shot,” McAleenan said.
McAleenan tried to resume his speech about 3 times but the hecklers started shouting a few seconds or right at the start of his speech.
Many of the people present clapped and showed their support to the organizers when they tried to quell the hecklers and restore civil dialogue.
As McAleenan spoke to the protesters: “I’ve dedicated my career to protecting the right to free speech and all the values we hold dear in America, from all threats,” one of the protesters responded with an expletive.
“I’d like to take our dialogue above the politics and above the daily news cycle, talk about the challenges and efforts that we’ve faced over the past year,” McAleenan said. “And to also talk about some of the fundamental issues we face with the current legal framework and its ability to address large scale immigration flows.” He was cut off again by the protestors.
The First Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to free speech and assembly. Unfortunately that right was robbed from many who were scheduled to speak and attend today’s event at Georgetown. Full statement below and speech here -> https://t.co/TLIhdBL36s pic.twitter.com/bDVonGWdEW
— DHS Press Secretary (@SpoxDHS) October 7, 2019
In regards to the incident, the Department of Homeland Security issued a press release that included McAleenan’s remarks.
“The First Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to free speech and assembly. Unfortunately, that right was robbed from many who were scheduled to speak and attend today’s event at Georgetown. Unfortunately, the Acting Secretary and the audience did not get the opportunity to engage in a robust dialogue this morning due to the disruptions of a few activists. The Acting Secretary thanked the organizers and returned to work protecting the Homeland and American values. Event attendees would have learned more about DHS’s successful strategy to work with international partners to reduce unlawful migration and end the exploitation of children by smugglers and cartels, and then they would have had the opportunity to participate in an unmoderated question and answer session. For the benefit of all the attendees and members of the press, the Department has released the Acting Secretary’s remarks as prepared.”