GU Occupy drops banner during Rep. Paul Ryan’s lecture in Gaston Hall

Earlier today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) spoke to a half-full Gaston Hall defending the Catholic community’s criticism of his budget. Halfway through the lecture, ten students from GU Occupy unfurled a banner from the upper balcony that read: “Stop the war on the poor. No social justice in Ryan’s budget.” The protestors were approached by security officers but not removed from the event.

Over 90 Georgetown faculty and administrators sent a letter on Tuesday to Ryan expressing stern disapproval of the budget’s plans to cut antipoverty and social welfare programs. Ryan’s response? “Some Catholics think they have a monopoly on Catholic social teaching.”

Ryan went on to respond to claims that his budget hurts America’s impoverished by arguing that “the overarching threat to our society is our spiraling government debt.” He added that cutting social programs and assistance to the poor would in fact reduce poverty.

After the event, GU Occupy joined Washington-based group Catholics United in a demonstration of twenty people stood across Gaston Hall on Copley Lawn with another banner. The protest included singing and a theatrical reading of a document the activists dubbed “the Gospel of the Rich.”

James Salt, Executive Director of Catholics United, said the real world impacts of Ryan’s budget were left out of the speech. “He hasn’t studied the Gospels,” Salt said. “He didn’t talk about the actual effects of his policies on those who are suffering. What’s lost today is the dignity of the mother of three on welfare…if Paul Ryan knew what poverty was we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

With a dose of patriotism, Ryan said during the lecture that “no one ever got rich betting against the United States.” Despite this, many members of Georgetown’s Catholic community remain concerned about the potentially devastating effects Ryan’s budget will have on the marginalized segments of American society.

Reporting by Gavin Bade

Photo: Gavin Bade

18 Comments on “GU Occupy drops banner during Rep. Paul Ryan’s lecture in Gaston Hall

  1. “He added that cutting social programs and assistance to the poor would in fact reduce poverty.” That literally does not make sense.

    Taking people off of the welfare rolls does not mean there are fewer poor people, it means there are fewer poor people who can feed their families.

  2. Wow, way to completely trivialize and caricature what Ryan was saying. I understand that there are concerns about his budget, and absolutely think we need to have a national dialogue on these issues (something Ryan seemed to support), but the operative word here is “dialogue” not self righteous, trite, accusatory signs and chants that add nothing of value to the conversation.

    It is easy to caricature, to belittle, and to demonize those who disagree with you. It is much more difficult to have a mature and reasoned dialogue with those you oppose. I would challenge GU Occupy to make greater efforts to elevate the level of dialogue that they engage in from simply holding up inflammatory signs when conservatives speak on campus. I for one do not have recent memory of conservative groups displaying such behavior when leftists with controversial views have spoken on campus.

    I am not in any way suggesting that GU Occupy did not have the right to do this, I am simply questioning their choice to do so, and contemplating whether this makes them look more legitimate and serious, or merely shallow and immature. I tend toward the latter, but I would hope that is not the case.

  3. Just out of curiosity, how else would you expect GU Occupy to have a dialogue with Representative Ryan besides holding up a sign? I guess I just don’t understand why people at Georgetown are so averse to respectful protest.

  4. Gavin Bade – definitely the most objective person to cover the Paul Ryan event.

    To quote an article form the Georgetown Patch (

    “We’re here protesting Newt Gingrich and his policies, not the fact that he’s here. He’s fine to come to campus, but his policies are, and have been since he’s gotten into Congress, in the service of the 1 percent and against the 99 percent,” said sophomore Gavin Bade of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. “This protest is a Georgetown University Occupy and NAACP organized event.”

    At least the Hoya keeps people involved in certain events from reporting about them.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with SMH’s above comment. I would like to remind Vox Pop writers that Congressman Ryan began his remarks by addressing the issues that SOME Catholics have with his policies, and by saying that he advocates for respectful discussion of the issue. The people that this blog is glorifying by giving them so much coverage did precisely the opposite, disrupting the speech and ignoring the Congressman’s point. Their actions were disrespectful and reflected poorly on the student body, and they should have been asked to express their views in the proper forum (i.e., the Q&A at the end) or to leave.

    Moreover, it would have been nice if Vox Pop writers had provided a more thorough report on the actual words of the Congressman, which was the real news story here. Among the details of his budget plan, he gave valuable insight as to the basis of his plans for the poor, which are based on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s (thus far) successful model on the state level. He spoke of the creation of scholarships for job training programs, which would allow people to be trained and get back on their feet in the case of job loss. He also mentioned the desire of all men/women to make themselves what they want to be (as opposed to riding the government’s coattails), which is the basis of the American Dream.

    Perhaps Vox Pop should reconsider its story here, rather than satisfying a group that went out of line by acting as such, when they could just as easily have respectfully and more intelligently protested in other ways. In the meantime, poorly done.

  6. Since when is silently holding a sign disrespectful? Cutting programs for the poor while increasing defense spending is what’s disrespectful.

  7. It was at least mildly disrespectful in the sense that its message was purposefully accusatory, inflammatory, and part of a message of demonization over substance (not that a sign can contain much subtance). Not to mention that the unfurling of the sign caused the entire audience to turn around among other commotion which broke the focus on what Ryan was saying for at least a few minutes. This drowned out a chunk of what he was trying to say, silent or not.

    Meanwhile, I agree with Christina on the reporting front that Paul Ryan said some things worthy of note here, and whether it was obvious or not, responded in a detailed and specific way to some of the generalized criticisms voiced here. It would have been nice to get more detail on what he said.

    In his own words this morning “In the war on poverty, poverty is winning”. His intuition is that we focus too much on treating symptoms without treating causes, and I think that it worthy of more discussion than implicity accusing him of hating or “waging war” on the poor. He seemed like a genuine person to me, not some evil boogeyman that trite signs like this paint. He has a certain view about how we should attack the poverty crisis, one that GU Occupy is free to disagree with, but slinging inflammatory accusations at him does nothing to advance the conversation or their positions.

    I am just sick of watching people turn to building straw men and demonization whenever they disagree with someone rather than having a real discussion. This goes for all reaches of the ideological spectrum by the way. I have seen this garbage from people I agree with too.

  8. To quote GU Occupy’s Messiah:

    “But we can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. (Applause.) You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. (Applause.) Throwing around phrases like “socialists” and “Soviet-style takeover” and “fascist” and “right-wing nut” — (laughter) — that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian, even murderous regimes.

    Now, we’ve seen this kind of politics in the past. It’s been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum, by the left and the right, since our nation’s birth. But it’s starting to creep into the center of our discourse. And the problem with it is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized. Remember, they signed up for it. Michelle always reminds me of that. (Laughter.) The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning –- since, after all, why should we listen to a “fascist,” or a “socialist,” or a “right-wing nut,” or a left-wing nut”? (Laughter.)

    It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate, the one we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.”

    —President Barack Obama, University of Michigan May 2010

  9. If you think that Barack Obama is GU Occupy’s Messiah, then you have no understanding of the movement either nationally or at Georgetown.

  10. Congratulations on completely ignoring the point of that quote. Whether he is held in high regard or not by GU Occupy, his words there are incredibly pertinent to what happened today and has been happening.

  11. all congress does is sit around and have “real discussions” on these issues and it gets us nowhere. sometimes our government needs to feel pressure from citizens who are suffering from the negative effects of their silly bantering and policies that are too watered down to actually help anyone so that we can actually get somewhere. as someone who grew up in a poor community, i know that real people’s situations can be too dire to just sit around and wait quietly while elected officials have never-ending dialogues that change nothing. it amuses me when people get on some moral high ground and criminalize protest, because i know that the only people who do that are people who have never had to truly suffer due to heartless policies like Paul Ryan’s.

  12. SMH, you are !00% right. Thank God that there are those at Georgetown who are not afraid to state the truth even if it is unpopular with many.

  13. @Seriously? Do you really know that? You really claim to know the extent of someone’s suffering based on whether agree with protest? That’s an amazing talent!

  14. i guarantee that if you were jobless and struggling to feed your children due to cuts to welfare programs, you would have no opposition to people protesting Paul Ryan

  15. Whether or not you agree with Ryan’s policies, it was disrespectful to interrupt a U.S. Congressman after he took time out of what was almost certainly a very busy schedule to make a voluntary address. The University is a poor host to those who do not share the opinion of a vocal minority and has developed a well-earned reputation for intellectual intolerance. Apparently the administration isn’t cognizant of the tangible ramifications these sorts of immature stunts have on the overall welfare of the school and its students.

  16. @Rob Lowe

    The real Rob Lowe (and I’m speaking of his West Wing character) is way cooler than you.

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