WASHINGTON (CN) – Dozens of Howard University students loudly protested Friday during the entirety of former FBI director James Comey’s convocation address to the incoming class.
It was one of Comey’s first public appearances since President Trump abruptly fired him in May.
At the beginning of Comey’s speech welcoming new students, a group of protestors stood with raised fists in the back of the auditorium and sang “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
They continued to chant slogans, including “No justice, no peace” and “Get out James Comey, you’re not our homey,” according to The Hill.
“I love the enthusiasm of young folks, but I wish they understood what a conversation is,” Comey said while students continued their chanting, singing and clapping.”I am here at Howard to try to get smarter, to try to be useful, to try to have healthy conversations,” Comey said.
Howard University appointed Comey as the 2017-2018 Gwendoly S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy. He is set to lead a series of five lectures at the university.
A group of student social justice activists called #HUResist said in a statement that it had organized the Friday demonstration.
The group pointed to remarks Comey made last year as the source of the so-called Ferguson effect – the idea that increased scrutiny of police officers, largely through video, in the wake of the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – had made police more reluctant to enforce the law.
The #HUResist group called the Ferguson effect “an outright racist lie designed to undermine the Black Liberation Movement.”
The group’s statement also accused Comey of “many affronts to Black communities and communities of color during his tenure with the FBI, including the dismissal of racist state-sanctioned violence, and efforts to dismantle the growing Black Lives Matter movement.”
The group compared that to the FBI’s decades-old effort to dismantle the black power and civil rights movements.
Comey has largely stayed out of the public eye since his testimony in June before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when he outlined some of the memos he wrote about his conversations with President Trump.
Comey had testified that he believed he was fired to undermine the FBI’s investigation of Russian influence on the 2016 election, which includes a look at whether any Trump campaign associates coordinated with that effort.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House to hand over materials related to Comey’s firing, CNN reported earlier this week.
At Howard, Comey continued his remarks through the disruption.
“There’s a lot of pain and hurt in this country and in this world. And to the graduates it’s going to be there when you graduate from Howard University,” he said, according to CNN. “Our country is going through one of those periods where we’re trying to figure out, so who are really and what do we stand for. It’s painful and it’s hard and sometimes it’s a little bit scary.”