Members of GU Occupy projected statistics about United States foreign policy, unemployment and military budget on a wall in Lohrfink Auditorium, interrupting a screening of the presidential debate Monday evening.

Occupy members refused the moderator’s request to turn off their projector, prompting the audio-video controller to yell and slam his laptop shut, according to Georgetown University Lecture Fund Chair Sean Keady (SFS ’13).

The Lecture Fund co-sponsored the debate screening, along with Georgetown University College Republicans and College Democrats.

During the closing remarks, GU Occupy members began projecting statistics again, at which point they were confronted by Department of Public Safety officers and Center for Student Programs Director Erika Cohen-Derr.

The students have been accused of violating the university’s speech and expression policy, which forbids any actions that impair other students’ enjoyment of an event, according to Keady. But since the projector did not directly obstruct students’ view of the debate, Keady was unclear whether GU Occupy violated the policy.

“It certainly made the atmosphere a little more tense and charged,” he said. “In general I think students were more frustrated rather than offended.”

The most recent violation of the university’s free speech policy was in January 2010, when Georgetown Solidarity Committee members read a list of grievances during a speech by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency David Petraeus.A group of about 20 students projected statistics about United States foreign policy, unemployment and military budget on a wall in Lohrfink Auditorium Monday evening, interrupting a screening of the presidential debate.

The students refused the moderator’s request to turn off their projector, prompting the audio-video controller to yell and slam his laptop shut, according to Georgetown University Lecture Fund Chair Sean Keady (SFS ’13).

The Lecture Fund co-sponsored the debate screening along with Georgetown University College Republicans and College Democrats.

During the closing remarks, the students began projecting statistics again, at which point they were confronted by Department of Public Safety officers and Center for Student Programs Director Erika Cohen-Derr.

However, Cohen-Derr and DPS officers allowed the group to remain in the auditorium.

The students have been accused of violating the university’s speech and expression policy, which forbids any actions that impair other students’ enjoyment of an event, according to Keady. But since the projector did not directly obstruct students’ view of the debate, Keady was unclear whether the group actually violated the policy.

“It certainly made the atmosphere a little more tense and charged,” he said. “In general, I think students were more frustrated rather than offended.”

The most recent violation of the university’s free speech policy was in January 2010, when students, including some members of Georgetown Solidarity Committee, read a list of grievances during a speech by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency David Petraeus.

According to protester Sydney Browning (COL ’15), a member of both GSC and GU Occupy who said the demonstration was not associated with either group, the protest was not supposed to detract from the presidential debate or violate the speech and expression policy.

“Its purpose was not to disrupt the debate,” she said. “It was not meant to touch the screen where the debate was going on. It was projected on the side wall.”

Katerina Downward (SFS ’14), another member of both GSC and GU Occupy who was involved in planning the event but not present in the auditorium, said that the group purposefully did not use sound in their presentation.

“It was a strategic choice on our part,” she said. “We acted within the institutional knowledge of how certain protests and demonstrations have been treated in the past. This was not an attempt to alienate anyone.”

The student protesters developed the idea for the demonstration three weeks ago and began executing a four-step plan on Saturday. Browning said that the plan consisted of posting a banner critiquing U.S. foreign policy in Red Square, handing out pamphlets during the pre-debate panel, projecting a PowerPoint presentation during the debate and giving a speech with a megaphone afterward.

According to Browning, 20 students were involved in planning the protest but only 10 organizers were at the event.

The demonstrators wanted to focus on the last presidential debate topic of foreign policy, although many people associated the protest with the Occupy movement.

“The Occupy movement was predominantly predicated on critiquing injustices,” Downward said. “This is more … about providing through our counternarrative a more holistic representation of the ramifications of U.S. foreign policy abroad.”

The group currently has no plans for further demonstrations, but participants said that they believe they accomplished their mission.

“Even if people don’t agree with us, I think that as long as at least some of them listened, then hopefully they thought about it, and that was our goal,” Browning said. “It wasn’t to say, ‘You’re wrong in your beliefs’ — it was to say, ‘Please consider this viewpoint.’”

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