Shouted down by protesters, Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was forced to abandon a planned speaking engagement at Georgetown law school Monday morning.
As McAleenan was introduced to speak at the Migration Policy’s Institute’s annual immigration forum, demonstrators in the crowd stood up, holding up banners that read “stand with immigrants” and “hate is not normal.”
“When our immigrants are under attack what do we do?” some of the protesters chanted.
“Stand up fight back,” others chanted back.
Demonstrators interrupt remarks by Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan at the Migration Policy Institute annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference in Washington D.C., Oct. 7, 2019.
McAleenan tried to start on his remarks multiple times, but was shouted down as more protesters in the crowd stood up and started chanting.
“When children are under attack, what do we do?” some shouted.
“Stand up fight back,” others repeated.
An event host tried to intervene, pleading with the crowd to give McAleenan a chance to continue.
“This audience is here to engage in a dialogue and listen to the speaker,” said MPI director Doris Meisner. “It’s time to finish this.”
McAleenan attempted to start another time but was shouted down again. One protester shouted “bull****” in response. Another called him a liar. McAleenan then departed the lectern and Meissner announced the conference would continue with the next scheduled panel.
Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan reacts while demonstrators interrupt his remarks at the Migration Policy Institute annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference in Washington D.C., Oct. 7, 2019.
Coordinated protests have repeatedly confronted Trump’s top immigration officials as the administration pursues aggressive policies. Democratic presidential candidates joined protesters at the over the summer at a temporary facility for unaccompanied migrant children. Bernie Sanders called the facilities “racist child prisons.” Similar temporary shelters were used in the Obama administration.
McAleenan’s predecessor, Kirstjen Nielsen, was heckled while trying to eat at a Mexican restaurant last year amid the uproar over the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in hundreds of families forced apart.
The Migration Policy Institute is a nonpartisan research organization that has served as a reliable resource for impartial data on immigration policy under heightened attention the topic has received in the Trump era. MPI President Andrew Seele said it was regrettable that the protests forced McAleenan to leave.
“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,” Seele said in a statement.