Former F.B.I. Director James Comey‘s speech Friday at Howard University’s Convocation was interrupted with widespread protest by students even before he took the podium. Once he got on stage, the demonstrators sang and chanted through his keynote address.
Before Comey even started his speech, some protesters could be heard chanting: “Get out James Comey, you ain’t my homie!”
Once Comey was on stage and approached the podium, an angered group of Howard students stood in unison and shouted phrases, sang songs and held signs. Chants included phrases such as, “Get out James Comey, get out of our home,” “We are here to reclaim this space,” “Black lives matter here,” and “No justice, no peace.” At one point, groups of students could be heard loudly singing “We shall not be moved.”
Comey greeted the response by standing quietly before asking the group to “hear him out.” However, the group continued the disruptions throughout his speech. After waiting about 15 minutes on stage, Comey decided to speak over the students, saying he appreciated their enthusiasm but instead wanted to use his time to sent an important message.
“I am here at Howard to try to get smarter, to try to be useful, to try and have healthy conversations,” he said, adding that the school is a place where people listen and learn from other viewpoints unlike most places in the world.
“Instead, what happens in most of the world and about four rows of this auditorium, is that people don’t listen at all, they just try to think about what rebuttal they’re going to offer when you speak,” Comey said.
Watch videos of the protests during Comey’s speech at Howard below:
Howard is a private, historically black university located in Washington D.C. and is recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as a research university. It has an enrollment of just over 10,000 students.
School officials announced in August that Comey would give the speech as well as become a special lecturer at the university. According to NBC News, Comey will give five lectures on a number of topics and he’ll donate his $100,000 compensation to a scholarship fund that assists students at the school who hail from foster homes.
“Howard has a longstanding history of being a vibrant academic community and the perfect place to have rich dialogue on many of the most pressing issues we face today,” Comey said in an August statement. “I look forward to contributing to this remarkable institution and engaging students and faculty alike.”
Friday’s speech was one of the rare public appearances for the former FBI director, who was abruptly fired by President Donald Trump in May.