Twenty members of Iowa City’s Occupy movement protested against Newt Gingrich during his speech on Wednesday.
Gingrich was visiting the University of Iowa medical campus to discuss brain research in a closed-door session. Upon his speech’s commencement, several protesters began shouting over the Republican presidential candidate.
The protesters hurled their qualms at Gingrich from written statements, and hammered Gingrich on what they called his “callous and arrogant attitude towards poverty and poor people.”
The former House Speaker stood in silence as the protesters interjected. Some angry Gingrich supporters booed the protesters and shouted for them to “shut up” and “get lost.”
One furious Gingrich supporter snatched a written statement from a protester’s hands and threw it across the crowded lecture hall.
A junior at the University of Iowa, Ben Ertl, was infuriated by the protesters actions. “I’m trying to make an educated decision here, and they’re just trying to make noise,” Ertl, a 20-year-old industrial engineering student, told the Des Moines Register.
“They’ll talk freedom of speech all they want, but what happened to freedom of hearing?” Ertl added.
Protester Mauro Heck, 52, admitted that the group had planned to interrupt Gingrich several days earlier, but understood the audience’s frustration.
“Most of these people were medical people, and we invaded their space. I would too if I was in their shoes,” Heck told the Des Moines Register. “It’s very hard to say when is an appropriate time; you just do what you can do.”
The protest went on for about three minutes. University officials escorted at least two protesters out of the hall.
Gingrich addressed the angry protesters’ statements after they were removed. “I appreciate that 95 percent of you, maybe even 99 percent of you … want to have an intelligent discussion and are not going to be drowned out by the 1 percent who try to impose their will by making noise,” Gingrich said, according to the Des Moines Register.
After Gingrich’s statement, he continued on with his intended discussion on how more medical research on Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases could result in an increase in American jobs.
Gingrich took questions from the audience after the lecture, and then met privately with 30 university researchers to further discuss brain research.