Before Monday night’s debate watch in Lohrfink, attendees were handed curious pamphlets before the event, filled with pictures of the “victims of American imperialism,” Howard Zinn quotes, and military spending statistics. The pamphlet was the beginning of a student protest that led to a heated confrontation between the protesters and a technology employee during the debate.
A group of “concerned students,” some of whom were affiliated with GU Occupy, interrupted the foreign policy debate watch to project a PowerPoint and deliver a speech detailing violations in American foreign policy.
After a rapid conversation with Senior Associate Dean James Parenti and the member of the technology staff, the protester, sitting to the audience’s left, turned the projector, which had been pointed at the wall to the audience’s right of the debate screen, toward the wall on his side, shrinking the image. After Dean Parenti and the technology staff member left, the protester turned the projector back toward the far wall.
The technology staff member came down the steps quickly and after saying something indecipherable to the protester, lunged for the projector and attempted to jerk it violently out of the protestor’s hands. Audience members nearby yelled; the rest of the crowd gasped. For a few seconds, the two seemed to struggle over the projector, and the staff member, perhaps realizing he had overstepped, pulled away and sped back up the stairs.
“He started screaming in my face, grabbing for the projector, shouting for me turn it off or be kicked out of the event. He grabbed my arms, shouting for me to give him the projector, and trying to rip it out of my hands. The projector shut off, and he let me go and left,” wrote “concerned student” Mark Waterman (SFS ’13) in an email to Vox.
The “concerned students” turned the projector off for a while after the incident, but the audience’s attention never completely returned to the debate. This group claims not to be associated with GU Occupy. “We wanted to express that this viewpoint is not only associated with the Left, but was broader and more encompassing than just one political faction. That’s one thing I really want to stress, people are saying that GU Occupy planned the action, and many of our members were in Occupy, but it was not an Occupy event,” member of GU Occupy and one of the “concerned students” at the event Sydney Browning (COL ’15) wrote in an email.
As Romney began his closing statement, the group of protesters who had projected military spending statistics on the wall and prepared pamphlets for attendees stood, and, megaphone in hand, decried what they see as the murderousness of U.S. foreign policy. They were booed by a few Romney supporters in the crowd (one of whom yelled, “get a job!”), but most students shuffled out ignoring the protestors’ message.
What they said, however, lined up well with the debate—only minutes before, to a round of self-congratulatory cheering by the Republicans in the room, Romney said, emphatically:
Mr. President, the United States has not dictated to other nations, the United States has freed other nations.
The protestors’ argue that both candidates operate under a paradigm which “views the US as a legitimate global police and “benevolent democratizer,” without accounting for the millions of voices united in their struggle…efforts to use hard power to forcibly open up foreign markets have catastrophically impacted millions of lives.”
Waterman added that the motive of the demonstration was not to prevent students from watching the debate, but to “present an alternative viewpoint. The two major party candidates represent a basic consensus on a militaristic foreign policy,” he wrote. “We tried our best to show people some facts, to get people thinking about the real human consequences of American foreign policy.”
The students finally shuffled out, and two DPS officers took down the student’s identification number and address of the protestor who had held the projector.
Protestors walked to the Georgetown DPS office to file a complaint about the technology employee’s actions. As of now, the students have not dealt with any repercussions of the disruption and are waiting to hear back on the complaint.
Photo by Lucia He
Additional Reporting by Isabel Echarte