Brown University students booed New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly off stage during a speech Tuesday in Providence, Rhode Island.
Kelly got in only a few words in front of a fiery crowd that chanted things like, “Racism is not for debate,” before university officials pulled the plug on his lecture.
New York’s top officer was scheduled to talk at the Taubman Center for Public Policy on proactive policing measures, then do a Q&A session. Following an intro, protesters began to shout at Kelly when he took the microphone.
Under Kelly’s leadership, local crime rates dropped to record lows. But he has become a polarizing figure in recent months over the NYPD’s controversial “stop and frisk” practice, which a federal judge ruled unconstitutional for targeting minorities.
Kelly reportedly told the crowd, “I thought this was the Academy..Where we’re supposed to have free speech.“
Protests and heckling continued for about 30 minutes, prompting college officials to step in. Brown University defended its mid-event cancellation due to the “indefensible” actions from “disruptive” crowd.
“The actions that led to the closing of this afternoon’s lecture prevented any exchange of ideas and deprived the campus and the Providence community of an opportunity to hear and discuss important social issues,” said Brown University President Christina Paxson in a press release. “The conduct of disruptive members of the audience is indefensible and an affront both to civil democratic society and to the University’s core values of dialogue and the free exchange of views.”
Audience members ignored pleas from faculty members to settle down and hold their commentary from for the Q&A portion.
Before the lecture, student groups tried to block the speech from taking place, but campus officials denied the request. Some protesters also marched outside with signs reading, “Stop police brutality” and “Stop and frisk doesn’t stop crime.”