Watch: Protesters Shut Down McAleenan's Speech at Georgetown Immigration Forum

By Susan Jones | October 8, 2019 | 7:53am EDT
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan speaks to the press in El Salvador on August 28, 2019. (Photo by Camilo Freedman/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images)

( - Free speech? Respect for different viewpoints? Not at Georgetown University on Monday, where Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was forced to leave a roomful of angry, chanting immigration activists as they repeatedly shouted down his speech before he could even begin.

McAleenan was invited to give opening remarks at a day-long conference hosted by The Migration Policy Institute, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Georgetown Law School.

As soon as he was introduced, a handful of activists in the crowd stood up, turned their backs on him, waved a banner reading "hate is not normal," and chanted, "When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!"

One of the panelists, Doris Meissner of The Migration Policy Institute, tried ineffectually to stop the protests, saying, "Please, that's enough, now" and "Thank you very much, we hear you -- this is a forum where 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 of it for the Q&A period."

"We'd like to hear the speaker now," Meissner added. "Please be seated. Please, folks," she said, as the chanting and disrupting continued.

"Please be seated so we can hear the speaker and engage in a dialogue," Meissner said, and the audience helped her by applauding. It was to no avail -- as soon as McAleenan started speaking for the second time, the protesters shouted over him.

"It's time to finish this," a frustrated Meissner said. "You're robbing the rest of this audience of an opportunity to engage in a dialogue that is important to have on a university campus. Please -- please ..." Meissner pleaded.

She asked McAleenan to "try again."

The secretary, however, was interrupted for a third time before he could finish his first sentence.

"Could you please have some respect for this audience who came here to listen to this speaker?" Meissner asked.

McAleenan said he'd "give it one more shot."

This time, he managed to get one sentence out: "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," he said.

"Bullshit," a protester shouted.

McAleenan continued: "So we'll go ahead and try one more time. But otherwise, I'm going to go back to work and keep trying to secure this country."

Protesters resumed their chanting, and McAleenan prepared to leave the room.

At this point, Andrew Selee, president of The Migration Policy Institute who had introduced McAleenan, came to the podium. He also tried to quell the protesters, telling them, "You're invoking democracy. Democracy requires dialogue. It requires listening. It requires a two-way street. The secretary has agreed to take questions and answers. We are robbing time from the period of questions and answers, where he can engage with the public. Could we please listen to his remarks and then have a chance to question him -- including people who disagree with him may question him."

"OK, last time, team," McAleenan said as he began his remarks for the fourth time. He said he wanted to take the dialogue "above our politics," but it wasn't to be.

Protesters resumed their yelling, and seven minutes after walking up to the podium, McAleenan walked out.

The video embedded in this report shows the entire seven-minute spectacle.


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