New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's lecture Tuesday at Brown University was halted after audience members disrupted the talk in protest of NYC's controversial "stop and frisk" policy.
Kelly was invited to the Ivy League institution to give a speech titled “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City.” It was to cover "his eleven-year tenure as the head of the NYPD, and the strategies that have enabled the New York City Police Department to drive crime down by more than 30% since 2001 while defending New York from another terrorist attack." Those strategies include "stop and frisk," the department's practice of stopping and questioning hundreds of thousands of mostly black and Hispanic men each year.
But things at Brown didn't quite go as planned. About a half-hour into the event, Kelly was met with catcalls from the audience.
“Racism is not for debate!” one person could be heard shouting. “We’re asking you stop stopping and frisking people!”
A Brown University official tried to restore order, urging the audience to hold their comments until the Q&A, but to no avail.
Other audience members cheered, and a visibly angry Kelly left the podium.
The school later issued a statement on its website condemning the conduct of its students.
"This afternoon, officials at Brown University closed a lecture by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and cleared the auditorium," the statement said. "That decision came after nearly 30 minutes of disruption by activist students and members of the local community. Loud shouting, persistent interruption, and coordinated chants made it impossible for the lecture to take place."
"This is a sad day for the Brown community," Brown University President Christina H. Paxson wrote in a separate letter. "I appreciate that some members of our community objected to the views of our invited speaker. However, our University is — above all else — about the free exchange of ideas. Nothing is more antithetical to that value than preventing someone from speaking and other members of the community from hearing that speech and challenging it vigorously in a robust yet civil manner."
According to the Brown Daily Herald, about 100 students protested outside the lecture hall before the speech. Some students circulated a petition asking that the school donate Kelly's speaking fee to nonprofits working to end racial profiling.
In August, a federal judge ruled that the "stop and frisk" policy was largely unconstitutional. The city appealed the ruling, and Kelly defended the practice as necessary.
"We have record low numbers of murders in New York City, record low numbers of shootings," Kelly said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We're doing something right to save lives."
According to the NYPD, 52 percent of the 4.4 million people stopped from January 2004 through June 2012 were black, 31 percent Hispanic and just 10 percent white. And 88 percent of those stopped by police were not arrested.
"We are sensitive to this," Kelly said of the statistics. "Nobody wants to be stopped. At the very least, you're giving up your time. But we need some balance here. The stark reality is that violence is happening disproportionately in minority communities. And that unfortunately is in big cities throughout America."