Former FBI director James Comey’s speech at Howard University’s convocation ceremony was met with intense protests on Friday. Comey was delivering a speech to welcome new students to the historically black university, but protesters interrupted him for the majority of the address. Some of the protest chants included "No justice, no peace," "We shall not be moved," and "White supremacy is not a debate."
Protesters chant “Black lives they matter here!” while former FBI Director James Comey speaks at Howard University pic.twitter.com/Dz2q2gMnIu— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) September 22, 2017
At one point, Comey was forced to stand silently at his podium, in front of an auditorium full of thousands of students as they shouted, "I love being black" and "Get out James Comey, you're not our homie."
Professor Bernard Richardson tried to calm protesters down by saying, “That’s not the Howard University way.’’ Comey himself attempted to lighten the situation, saying, “I’m only going to speak for 12 minutes,’’ and joking that they would all be late for lunch if the protestors kept up. Eventually, Comey was forced to speak over the loud chants and songs. “Our country is going through one of those periods where we’re trying to figure out who are we really and what do we stand for. It’s painful,’’ Comey said.
According to freshman Howard student Nayla Hale, a member of campus organization HU Resist, the protests were in response to remarks Comey made in 2015 about the so-called “Ferguson Effect,” a phenomenon in which police officers admit to making fewer traffic stops or engaging in certain situations out of fear of being filmed and going viral as the next “bad cop.”
JUST NOW: Howard University students chant "Get out James Comey, you ain't my homie!" before his keynote address. pic.twitter.com/NosMrO49jF— #MenendezTrial (@NewtTrump) September 22, 2017
"In today's YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime?" Comey asked in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School in 2015. "Are officers answering 911 calls, but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns? I don't know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior."
In the same speech, Comey also repeatedly used the phrase “all lives matter.”
"James Comey represents an institution diametrically opposed to the interests of Black people domestically and abroad," said HU Resist in a statement passed out at the convocation Friday. "The 'Ferguson Effect,' for example, is an outright racist lie designed to undermine Black Liberation Movement."
Comey could hardly get through his planned remarks. "I love the enthusiasm of young folks, but I wish they understood what a conversation is," Comey said at one point, while the students continued to loudly protest. He also said that he had chosen to go to Howard University from a number of other invitations to speak elsewhere.
"I look forward to adult conversations about what is right and what is true," Comey concluded. Despite the protests, his remarks were met with a standing ovation, echoing the sentiments of some in attendance. “What just happened is not the Howard way at all," Brittiany Royster, also a freshman at Howard, told CNN. "I wanted to hear him out. I love being black, but I also love being black and educated. And in order to do that, is to choose intellect over ignorance—you have to keep an open mind and hear all parties out."
WATCH: Protesters sing "We Shall Not Be Moved" as former FBI Director James Comey takes stage at Howard University https://t.co/k8TBMzujwd— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 22, 2017
Comey has been named Howard University’s Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy, which means he is slated to give several other speeches at the university throughout the school year. According to a university press release, his position at Howard involves a lecture series "designed to foster fruitful discussion and spur meaningful interaction."