Protesters interrupt Obama rally

Student protesters from Yale and Harvard argue that Obama has not lived up to his campaign promise for increased funding for global AIDS relief.
Student protesters from Yale and Harvard argue that Obama has not lived up to his campaign promise for increased funding for global AIDS relief. Photo by Victor Kang.

Protesters from Yale and Harvard momentarily stole the spotlight from President Barack Obama at a rally in Bridgeport, Conn. Saturday.

Speaking in front of 10,000 attendees, Obama stumped for Connecticut’s Democratic candidates, who face tight races in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Within the first five minutes of his speech, about 30 students seated 50 feet from the stage interrupted the President, carrying a large white banner with red painted letters reading: “Keep the Promise: $50 billion for global AIDS.”

U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy, and Representative Jim Himes joined Obama in Bridgeport to gain Democrats’ support for Tuesday’s elections, with the Democratic party projected to lose seats in both chambers, according to a Quinnipiac poll last Tuesday. Russell Simmons, the celebrity hip-hop mogul who hosted the rally, and the candidates all encouraged Connecticut residents to rally Democratic votes for the election before Himes turned over the podium to Obama. But several minutes after the President took the stage, his speech was punctuated by demonstrators shouting, “Fund global AIDS!”

While Obama’s speech came to a halt for several minutes, he took it as an opportunity to address the protesters directly.

“These folks have been — you’ve been appearing at every rally we’ve been doing. And we’re funding global AIDS, and the other side is not. So I don’t know why you think this is a useful strategy,” Obama responded, after telling the group to “listen up.”

After the rally the group of student demonstrators, which was comprised of students from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, and about 20 Harvard students, insisted that their intention was not to cast aspersions on the President, but to hold him accountable for the promises he made in his 2008 campaign about increased funding for AIDS.

“Hey Obama, we love you, but AIDS patients need you too,” the students chanted outside the arena after the rally.

David Carel ’13, a member of the protest group, said that Obama originally promised a $1 billion increase each year for global AIDS funds, but in his two years as president, has only increased funding by about $150 million.

“So many of us are huge Obama supporters, and part of that is why we’ve been so disappointed,” Carel said. “It’s something that we really believed he would show leadership on, but he’s fallen short.”

As police escorted the protesters out of the arena, Obama told the audience that certain problems like global AIDS must take a backseat to the more pressing issue of the economy. “We’re not going to be able to do anything unless we can take people back to work, unless people feel confident about the future,” he said.

Audience members also expressed displeasure with the students’ protest tactics.

“We didn’t like how the Yale students were disrespectful. It was totally uncalled for. It was not the forum,” said Anna Montalvo, a Bridgeport resident.

Marina Keegan ’12, the elections coordinator for Yale College Democrats who organized a group of 40 Yale students to attend the rally, disapproved of the protests. “I thought it was rude…to go to rallies and interrupt. I support anyone who has a message to get out, but that wasn’t the way to go about it,” she said.

After the protesters had exited the arena, Obama returned to the primary focus of his message: convincing voters to elect Democrats and move forward in rebuilding the economy and providing support for the working class by rejecting Republican policies that contributed to the recession.

“The other side wants to go back to the same policies — to cut taxes for millionaires, cut regulations for special interest groups, cut out the middle class,” Obama said. “We tried it for eight years and it did not work. We are not going back to that. That is the choice in this election.”

Obama compared the economy to a car that the Republicans have driven into a “deep ditch.”

“Somehow they managed to walk away from the scene of the crime,” he said. “[The Republicans] can’t have the keys back. [They] don’t know how to drive.”

But Cyprien Sarteau ’12, vice president of activism for Yale College Republicans, said that he believes that Democrats currently in Congress have been incompetent and Obama’s administration is to blame.

“In the past four years, Nancy Pelosi has driven our country into a ditch, with Congressmen … voting in lockstep with her agenda to push the car even further into the ditch,” Sarteau said.

Malloy and Blumenthal both stressed Democratic policies that would help small businesses, ensure health care, and create tax breaks for America’s middle class.

Although these two candidates face tight races against their Republican contenders, for Jim Himes, the Democrat seeking reelection as the state’s fourth district representative, Obama’s visit to Bridgeport was particularly important.

Before Himes took office in 2009, his seat in the House of Representatives had been occupied by the Republican Party since 1969.

Comments

  • nycdem

    As a Yalie (BK’77) I couldn’t be more disgusted with the demonstrators. When Republicans take over, it’s YOUR fault. Idiots. Shessh – read a book. This one issue – which you think Repiblicans will now focus on? – is NOT more important than the myriad other issues facing the country. You will deserve the country that the Republicans have in store. Sadly, the rest of us don’t deserve it.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    So… suddenly libs DIS-like rally interruptions?

  • RexMottram08

    Yea nycdem, we know Republicans hate AIDS patients and G W Bush hates black people….

    Obama losing his cool is delicious though…

  • nycdem

    Actually he didn’t lose his cool. I didn’t say Rs hate Aids patients. (Altho most anti gay rhetoric comes from your breed of Neanderthal) Are you saying a Repubican Congress will pass more funding for AIDS treatment? Are you?

    You don’t really care about this issue do you RexMottram? But you’re glad these particular Yale students were stupid enough to play into your hands.

    And W isn’t anti black. But a whole lot of your fellow tea partiers sure are against black Presidents.

  • RexMottram08

    Thank you for showing your stripes.

  • nycdem

    Proud of my blue stripes! What stripes do Neandethals wear?

  • asinine

    @nycdem

    Actually Bush’s greatest achievement was probably in Africa with his AIDS initiative since 2003. I don’t know, it does look like a Republican Congress did pass more funding for AIDS treatment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President's_Emergency_Plan_For_AIDS_Relief

  • yalie13

    @nycdem
    “When Republicans take over, it’s YOUR fault.”

    While you the rest of what you said raises legitimate points, let’s not blow this out of proportion now.

  • redandblue

    This should honestly be an issue that goes beyond which side of the aisle you stand on.

    Obama is the president and the one with the power to influence these decisions. Since when is people advocating for something they believe in and holding their politicians accountable not been a good thing. Republicans and Democrats need to be held accountable on this issue. It is not up to any one person to say what the single most important issue facing this country is. It is up to every citizen to make that decision themselves and then act as they see fit in line with the rights this country allows us.

    Try and take off the red or blue goggles for one minute and see this issue for what it is.

  • RexMottram08

    When the country has to BORROW the money that we spend on AIDS, is this justified?

  • kayteeriek

    totally agree w/ redandblue! this is about holding our politicians accountable. they promised, and millions of lives hang in the balance. they have to keep their promise, but they won’t do it unless people demand they do it.

  • Jaymin

    I’m not sure what the explicit promise was, but based on the picture, it seems this group is asking for $50 billion. Given that we don’t have that money at this point, I think it is more applaudable for a politician to wisely back track on the promise, rather than sticking with it on principle.

  • redandblue

    Just to clarify, the group is asking for Obama to fulfill his campaign promise of an additional $1 billion per year for PEPFAR. His most recent budget proposal asked from an additional $150 million, falling $850 million short of his campaign promise. The group is NOT asking for $50 billion in new funding, merely an additional $850 million for PEPFAR, a pretty reasonable request considering that 5 million people around the world are not receiving the ARVs they need and some of the other major outlays this administration has made (ex: Afghanistan)

  • Gregg Gonsalves

    As one of the demonstrators on Saturday, as a Yale College student, as a person living with HIV/AIDS, and as an Obama supporter, I saw nothing wrong what we did. The President is getting bad advice on global health and has made bad decisions. Our colleagues in DC have tried all other forms of appeal to the Administration and they continue to move away from supporting scale-up of AIDS treatment in Africa, something that up until just recently had iron-clad bipartisan support and has saved the lives of millions of men, women and children around the world. We won’t affect the outcome of the elections tomorrow–there are much larger forces at work, which will determine the Democrats’ and Republicans’ fates. What we did get is the President’s attention–perhaps now he will intervene and do the right thing. Being a good Democrat isn’t about marching-in lock-step or offering up uncritical devotion. All of us in Bridgeport on Saturday, voted, worked for, or gave money to the President during his campaign and will support him again, but he needs to show leadership on global AIDS and live up to the promises he made to us.

  • roflairplane

    Nancy PELOSI drove our COUNTRY into a DITCH! We can’t GIVE the KEYS back! She CAN’T drive! DITCH.

  • Cyprien

    Just want to clarify that I said that comment entirely in irony to make fun of the worst metaphor I’ve heard in politics in a while — Obama’s ditch metaphor. – CS

  • peconic

    What a bunch of puerile little snots, and that includes you, Gregg.

    I don’t suppose you were out in force a few years ago to show your support for Bush when he won $10 billion in funding for African AIDS. No? didn’t think so.

  • Cyprien

    The full quote from me, in the interests of journalistic integrity:

    In the past four years Nancy Pelosi has driven our country into a ditch, with Congressman such as John Hall voting in lockstep with her agenda to push the car even further into the ditch. Tuesday’s results will make it clear that voters want independent-minded legislators such as Dr. Nan Hayworth to take back the keys to the car, not those who are only interested in paying back political favors, suing teenagers, and driving our country into ditches such as John Hall. Voters will give the keys to our country back to the Republicans — to Nan Hayworth, not to ditch-loving John Hall. I believe this ditch metaphor is meaningful and illuminates the situation, not completely and utterly useless.

  • redandblue

    @Peconic Once again…not a partisan issue.

    We’re happy to acknowledge the gains made by the Bush administration in AIDS funding, but we also realize that funding came with qualifications that we don’t necessarily agree with (such as tying funding to ineffective abstinence only education). It wasn’t as if Bush’s AIDS policies were without their problems.

    There are plenty of things to celebrate and deride in both the Bush and Obama administrations and depending on which side you support, those lists differ. We want AIDS funded and we want it funded in the correct way based on best practices and whoever is making the decisions for that funding should be held accountable.Bush wasn’t perfect and Obama isn’t perfect on this issue, so why shouldn’t we strive to ensure our views and dissatisfaction are heard? Last I checked, organized peaceful demonstration is a right based on the first amendment. Name-calling over internet comments is infinitely more the puerile behavior, no?

  • nycdem

    re: comments saying that people are allowed to interrupt speeches and scream if they don’t get the Pres of the US to do exactly what they want when they want: NO YOU AREN’T. And the fact that your biggest defenders here are the right wingers shoudl tell you exactly who you’re pleasing..

    Again: bunch of spoiled brats.

  • nycdem

    @ gregg Gonsalves: the President doesn’t “need” to do anything for you. Arrogant little child. A lot of us worked for and gave money to him. Did your parents not teach you that you can’t get everything you want right away? And you feel entitled to prevent others from listening to the Pres so you can have a tantrum? What you did wasn’t the “right to demonstrate”. What you did was Joe Wilson yelling”you lie” in the middle of the State of the Union. Great company you’re in.

    and @ Cyprien: Nan Nayworth knows nothing and has no experience. John Hall and Nancy Pelosi have been pulling the country out of the Republican ditch. The people I know in Westchester voting for Hayworth are Wall Streeters angry at new regs to prevent us from having to rescue them again. that’s her constituency. Oh – and probably insurance companies who want to deny coverage to people.

  • asinine

    What’s with your fascination with the right? Sorry if people like to stick to the literal definition of the first amendment allowing free speech. Sure you can argue that it may be in bad taste, but you cannot say that they are not allowed to do so. Last I heard, free speech was an international human rights law which isn’t really a bipartisan issue.

  • River Tam

    @nycdem:

    Someone’s cranky before the election…

  • River Tam

    > the President doesn’t “need” to do anything for you. Arrogant little child. A lot of us worked for and gave money to him. Did your parents not teach you that you can’t get everything you want right away?

    Just quoting nycdem for posterity…

  • nycdem

    @ asinine – actually, free speech does NOT mean that only the person who yells the loudest gets heard.

    @ River tam – cranky? offended by self-righteous people taking away other people’s rights. Perhaps a concept foreign to you – respect for others’ rights. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t stand for someone shouting down President Bush either. And when I was at yale, I was against shouting down Shockley, altho I was outside protesting his views.

  • nycdem

    sorry – one more thing – only mentioning the Right because of protesters’ repeated statements that they are Obama backers. Trying to point out something totally obvious . Waste of my time. Yale’s admissions standards seem to have slipped.

  • River Tam

    > @ River tam – cranky? offended by self-righteous people taking away other people’s rights. Perhaps a concept foreign to you – respect for others’ rights. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t stand for someone shouting down President Bush either. And when I was at yale, I was against shouting down Shockley, altho I was outside protesting his views.

    I say “cranky” because being “offended” is not sufficient to immediately start hurling insults at anyone or everyone who doesn’t kowtow to the DNC line.

  • River Tam

    > Yale’s admissions standards seem to have slipped.

    Yes, they apparently have. Back in the 70s you had have the right breeding. We only admitted men of character from schools like Exeter, Choate, and dear old Andover.

    Now they let any old riff-raff in.

  • nycdem

    I’m a woman, and , here’s some ancient history for you , we were admitted starting in the 60s. And I didn’t go to a private school. If in fact yours was an ad feminam argument. (Latin) (philosophy talk) (apparently one can’t assume any level of basic knowledge these days)

  • asinine

    Just in case it wasn’t obvious, being an Obama backer doesn’t mean you’re part of the left. The issue at hand has nothing to do with bipartisanship so there’s no need to draw party lines. Again I’m not passing judgement on their actions, but at the core, they have every right to protest. Also ad hominems really aren’t necessary. Can’t we be polite and enjoy our argument?

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    If one is an “Obama backer” but *not* part of the Left, then, what does that make one? Are you implying that some voted for Obama for reasons *other* than his stand on the issues? Pray tell, what other reason was there?

    [**I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car!**][1]
    [**I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage!**][2]

    — *Peggy Joseph*

    [1]: http://chicagoagainstobama.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/hope-obama-will-pay-my-mortgage-and-pay-for-my-gas/
    [2]: http://uppitywoman08.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/woman-barack-obama-will-pay-my-mortgage-and-fill-my-gas-tank/

  • b

    It can mean they’re independent, Hieronymus. I backed Obama in the previous election not because a mere word from his mouth gave me butterflies, but because I felt his platform and character on the whole were better suited for the office of President than that of McCain and Palin. I don’t find myself in lock-step agreement with the Left or Right on policy.

    Tomorrow, I’ll be voting for some Democrats and some Republicans.

  • svmiddny

    “tis instructive perhaps that Glenn Beck this evening on Fox used this mindless and self-indulgent stunt as evidence that “even the left has abandoned Obama”. If nothing else, you folks keep excellent intellectual company

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    @b: And how do you feel now? Do you still back the President’s “platform and character?” If so, perhaps you should reassess exactly what it means to be “Left” versus “Independent.”

  • redandblue

    This was not done to placate an alum with a clearly “objective” handle like “nycdem”

    This was done to bring attention to an issue that effects millions of people worldwide that is sadly being ignored. Insult us, our education or our methods as much as you want. You want to talk about other people’s rights to listen to a speech? What about our right to hold our politicians accountable for their broken promises? What about of the rights for the 5 million people who aren’t receiving ARV treatments? Maybe you don’t care but someone does and feels this is worth fighting for. Fortunately for us, those who came before us and those who will follow us on this issue and others, your narrow take on the first amendment is by no means the official interpretation.

    This effort was not out of the blue. It was a long process coming to a head. It is a complex issue that takes effort to understand. I can see how red or blue blinders could confuse the issue, but I feel entitled to nothing but my rights which I exercised. Activism might not always be in proper taste and is not for everyone, but sometimes the need for decorum succumbs to the need for action.

  • nycdem

    look, we’re operating from false premises. I was silly silly silly. Obviously the temper tantrum people are not disappointed Obama-ites – they’re Fox news stalking horses! Glenn Beck is so very happy with you, kids.

    I am curious why the School of Public Health guy is giving aid and comfort to those who want to dismantle the health care bill, but I’m sure he has his reasons..

    moving on – Hiereonymous – everything the President has done was in his platfrom, and Fox News notwithstanding, none of it is radical or far-left – stimulus (you know – to avoid another Depression), health care reform,because the majority of people going bankrupt do so b/c of overwhelming health care costs, and fin reg, because, well, Wall Street broke the whole world. So unless you want a Depression, people being bankrupted by health costs, or another collapse of the world economy – and you don’t , do you Hieronymous? – everything President Obama did was great!

    good night, and good luck.

  • nycdem

    @redandblue – not asking you to “placate” me. being a Dem means I’m not objective? Interesting. What are they teaching you there?

    You continue to insist that “exercising your rights” involves shouting down the President. that’s not free speech – that’s thuggery.

    I certainly understand that you feel entitled to throw a tantrum whenever you like. Doesn’t make it right.. And you are high and mighty about the nobility of your cause. A lot of us have been fighting for your cause since before you were born. Hey, but at least you made Fox News happy! So I retract earlier thoughts that you accomplished nothing.

  • redandblue

    @nycdem Keep on beating that partisan drum. There was no intention to hurt or help anyone here but those suffering and dying from AIDS around the globe. I know that some people can’t help but assign a red or blue angle to everything anyone does, but it is possible. I’m pretty sure another rally happening a couple hundred miles away that day was saying just that. All I see when I’m reading your comments is something no better then Beck from the left. You’re too hung up on semantics and partisanship and haven’t once actually mentioned the issue at hand.

    So you, please, have yourself a very good night

    I’m done feeding the troll.

  • svmiddny

    @redandblue Grammar please, mon ami. For starters, look up ‘affect’ v ‘effect’ and ‘that’ v ‘which’ .You know, basic stuff. It’s usu the literate activists who have the greatest EFFECT in the long run.. I’m a wee bit concerned in your case…..

  • redandblue

    A grammatical correction from a post with a typo.

    “It’s usu the literate activists who have the greatest EFFECT in the long run”

    I love it.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    > everything the President has done was
    > in his platfrom, and **Fox News
    > notwithstanding**, none of it is radical
    > or far-left – stimulus (you know – to
    > avoid another Depression), health care
    > reform,because the majority of people
    > going bankrupt do so b/c of
    > overwhelming health care costs, and
    > fin reg, because, well, Wall Street
    > broke the whole world. So unless you
    > want a Depression, people being
    > bankrupted by health costs, or another
    > collapse of the world economy – and
    > you don’t , do you Hieronymous? –
    > **everything President Obama did was great!

    There’s “Fair & Balanced” for ye. Wow. I am not even going to bother attempting to explain “the other side” to you–you are clearly either un*able* to hear or un*interested* in listening.

    Whatever.

    Prepare for tomorrow’s electoral shellacking; I, for one, look forward to it.

  • nycdem

    @redandblue . Gee – disagreeing with you makes me a troll? that’s obviously your issue – your opinion and only yours gets to be heard.

    Shouting down the President is wrong – that’s a very controversial belief I’ve got!

    Glenn Beck of the left? actually, I’m moderate, and I deal in truth, not lies. I don’t make up facts. I don’t demonize the President. I don’t shout down the President. Whoever the President is. If I want to demonstrate – as I’ve done since the Vietnam War – I get a sign and march. Subtle differences, I grant you. get off your self righteous horse. You’re not a valiant advocate of free speech – you’re a thug. With a messiah complex.

  • svmiddny

    @redandblue I rest my case. But if you’re still confused, behold:

    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/affect-versus-effect.aspx

    Tho it might further confuse you….

  • Yale12

    Wow, nycdem, remarking that Yale’s admissions standards must have fallen when you encounter a Yale student you disagree with. How original. You’re the first YDN commenter to ever do that…

  • ccdemuth

    Today we can begin to restore the fiscal prudence that has been lacking during the past two years of an unchecked and unbalanced congress. Incumbent congressmen such as Jim Himes are responsible for profligate spending and bureaucratic overreach that fetters our economy, leaving us with low growth and high unemployment. We can tell Washington, D.C. that we have had enough by electing reformers such as challenger Dan Debicella.

  • YaleMom

    @nycdem: you are a spunky old lady, just like me!! Let’s fight these uppity boys!! We moms have rights too!!!