Students at Amherst College in Massachusetts protested an appearance by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions by raising a rainbow flag and walking out.
Shortly into Sessions’s speech Wednesday night, about 20 students raised their fists and walked out quietly, with one carrying the rainbow-hued LGBTQ Pride flag, the Springfield Republican reports. (See video below.) They then rallied outside Johnson Chapel, the hall where Sessions was speaking, and chanted various protest slogans, which could be overheard inside.
Sessions, who in the speech encouraged conservative students to make their views known and not be silenced by campus liberals, actually had a bit of praise for the way the protest went off. “I have to say that was a little better than last week at the University of Minnesota,” he said, according to The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. He said students repeatedly interrupted him at the Minnesota event.
“I thought the protest was done well,” Amherst student Jake Grossman told the Collegian. “It didn’t disrupt his speech, but they still got to make their point.”
Huey Hewitt, a member of the Direct Action Coordinating Committee, which organized the protest, told the paper the committee recognized “it would be more tactical to do a walkout, where we show that we’re not willing to listen to Jeff Sessions but we’re not going to shut him down for speaking, and then have this alternative event to show that our voices are louder than his.” Speakers from a variety of community groups appeared at the gathering outside the chapel. It was “a beautiful event,” Hewitt said.
Sessions, a far-right Republican, enraged many Americans with his policies as attorney general. During his tenure, the Department of Justice ceased defending LGBTQ rights in employment, education, and other venues. It also oversaw the separation of immigrant children from their families.
The family separation policy “trampled the rights of thousands,” Amherst economics professor Jessica Reyes told the Springfield Republican as she protested prior to the speech. She said the college should not have allowed Sessions on campus. “Amherst College is a private institution; we can chose who we welcome to campus,” she said. “We shouldn’t invite people who treat people as badly as Jeff Sessions did.” Sessions was invited by the Amherst College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom.
During his speech, Sessions called for more diversity of voices on college campuses, which he said are dominated by liberals. He accused liberals of silencing conservatives in academia and said at least twice that Amherst has no conservative professors, “a statement college officials questioned, saying there is no data to support that,” the Springfield Republican notes.
Sessions also gave his take on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion or obstruction of justice by Donald Trump and his campaign staff. Mueller’s report didn’t establish that the Trump team colluded, although the campaign recognized that Russia’s efforts would be beneficial. The report left open the question of whether Trump and his administration committed obstruction of justice by interfering with the investigation. Sessions drew criticism from Trump for recusing himself from the investigation, and the president forced him to resign as attorney general.
Sessions didn’t discuss the report’s details, but he said it the investigation was conducted “with integrity,” The Boston Globe reports. “The process was followed and a decision has now been rendered, and I think it deserves respect,” he added. “I think it’s about time to accept the results, and let’s get on with the business of America.”
Students protest Jeff Sessions’ talk by walking out of Johnson Chapel and leaving nearly half the chapel empty. Video courtesy of Alex Liu ’19 pic.twitter.com/09gMfmNK7N
— The Amherst Student (@AmherstStudent) April 25, 2019