Obama drone speech interrupted by Code Pink leader
(CNN) — President Barack Obama’s solemn remarks on drones and counterterrorism were interrupted at length Thursday by a protester who loudly advocated for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison – the same position Obama was stressing in his speech.
The woman shouting was identified as peace activist Medea Benjamin of the group Code Pink, whose members have been loudly interrupting congressional hearings and official speeches for years.
“You are commander-in-chief – you can close Guantanamo today,” Benjamin shouted during a portion of Obama’s speech in which the president outlined changes in policy that included an all-out push to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. She later yelled, “It’s been 11 years!”
Benjamin herself is a frequent presence at events in Washington and elsewhere. It was unclear how she entered the speech, held at the National Defense University. Other members of the audience included students at the school, experts in human rights and national security, and government officials who have helped develop counterterrorism policies.
“This is part of free speech, is you being able to speak but also you listening and me being able to speak, alright?” Obama said upon the first interruption.
Benjamin kept up her protest, which also included a rebuke against American drone strikes which have killed civilians. Obama eventually diverted from his prepared remarks to address the situation head-on.
“The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to,” he said. “Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said and obviously she wasn’t listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.”
On their official Twitter page, the group hailed Benjamin’s protest
“Thanks to our very own @medeabenjamin for standing up and speaking the truth to @BarackObama!”
And in the conclusion of his remarks, Obama added another nod to Benjamin’s protest as he listed ways a victory in the war on terror would be assessed.
“Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school, immigrants coming to our shores, fans taking in a ballgame, a veteran starting a business, a bustling city street, a citizen shouting at your concerns at a president,” he said.
“The quiet determination, that strength of character and bond of fellowship, that refutation of fear, that is both our sword and our shield.”