The former FBI director stood silently for over 15 minutes as the students yelled
James Comey is the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King endowed chair in public policy
Students at Howard University loudly protested former FBI Director James Comey Friday as he delivered a convocation address.
As Comey, making a rare public appearance since leaving the FBI, began his speech welcoming new students at Howard University, protesters could be heard yelling from the back of the room, raising their fists and shouting. Some of the slogans included “No justice, no peace, “We shall not be moved” and “white supremacy is not a debate.”
Standing before a packed auditorium, Comey stood silently for over 15 minutes as the students yelled, “I love being black” and “Get out James Comey – you’re not our homey.”
“I love the enthusiasm of young folks, but I wish they understood what a conversation is,” Comey said as the students continued to chant, sing and clap throughout his entire prepared remarks. He said that he had received a number of invitations to speak over the place several months, but “chose to come here.”
“I look forward to adult conversations about what is right and what is true,” Comey concluded, as he ended to a standing ovation.
As holder of the school’s Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King endowed chair in public policy, Comey is slated to give a number of speeches during the following year. His role at Howard will include engaging the Howard community through a lecture series “designed to foster fruitful discussion and spur meaningful interaction,” according to a university press release.
Freshman Howard student Nayla Hale, a member of HU Resist, said that students were specifically troubled by Comey’s views on the so-called, “Ferguson effect,” which suggests police officers use restraint out of concern over being videotaped during violent confrontations.
“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.”
But other students told CNN they thought the group went about it the wrong way.
“What just happened is not the Howard way at all,” Brittiany Royster, also a freshman at Howard. “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.”
Trump’s name was not mentioned by any speakers Friday, though the political climate during his administration was a theme in others’ remarks.
“There’s great crisis our nation,” said Rev. Dr. Bernard L. Richardson, as Comey bowed his head during the opening prayer. “Truth is being rendered irrelevant,” sparking a church-like call-and-response from the audience which said, “that’s right.”
The former FBI head has stayed mostly out of the spotlight since his dramatic testimony before the Senate intelligence committee in June – one of the more significant moments to develop in the ongoing saga over Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.
CNN reported earlier this week that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has requested the White House turn over any documents related to Comey’s dismissal, as well as information connected to an Oval Office meeting in which Trump told Russian officials that firing Comey eased pressure on his White House.
CNN’s Miranda Green contributed to this report.