Former FBI Director James Comey was met with a sea of deafening chants and boos during a speech at Howard University on Friday, Sept. 22, as several students gathered to protest his new role at the historically Black university.
Comey, who delivered remarks at the school’s 150th Opening Convocation, stood silently on stage to face the crowd of frustrated students, who were heard chanting at the back of the auditorium, “we shall not be moved, “I love being Black,” and “Get out James Comey, you’re not our homey.” Activists with student-led group #HUResist had been planning the demonstration all week via social media, according to NBC News.
“I’m here at Howard to have a conversation. I hope you listen to what I have to say,” the former FBI director said as the crowd of students continued to chant and jeer throughout his entire address. “I love the enthusiasm of young folks, but I wish they understood what a conversation is.”
Faculty, staff and students seated near the front decided to hear Comey out and applauded his efforts to have a conversation. Still, the protesters at the back continued to chant to the point that music was played in an attempt to drown them out.
In August, the university announced that Comey would serve as the school’s Gwendolyn S. Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in public policy for the upcoming school year. His duties will include leading a series of lectures designed to engage the campus community and “foster fruitful discussion,” according to a Howard press release. The ousted FBI head also vowed to donate his $100,000 compensation to a scholarship fund benefiting students from foster homes.
Some students weren’t too pleased with the announcement, however.
Activists with #HUResist pointed to Comey’s opinions on the so-called “Ferguson Affect,” which suggests officers are less aggressive with their policing for fear of being videotaped. The student group also accused Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump over his handling of the Russia investigation, of trying to criminalize Black Lives Matter.
“James Comey represents an institution diametrically opposed to the interests of Black people domestically and abroad,” HU Resist in a statement circulated at the convocation Friday. “The ‘Ferguson Effect,’ for example, is an outright racist lie designed to undermine Black Liberation Movement.”
Comments and footage from the contentious convocation ceremony flooded social media Friday.
— #HUResist (@HUResist) September 20, 2017
I am proud of the kids behind @HUResist and all who stood with them today
— Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) September 22, 2017
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 22, 2017
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) September 22, 2017
In a statement, Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick described Comey as an ethical man who’ll challenge students to hear views different from their own.
The former FBI director affirmed the president’s statement, telling the crowd, “I look forward to adult conversations about what is right and what is true”