A raucous crowd at Brown University drowned out New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly with cries of “racism” and demands for “peace and justice” yesterday. Before he left, Kelly said, “I thought this was the academy where you exercised free speech.” The Providence Journal says that a grim-faced Kelly left the List Arts Center via a side door after university officials gave up their attempts to bring order to the auditorium and closed the program 27 minutes after its scheduled start. Kelly had been expected to speak on “proactive policing,” a policy more commonly known as stop-and-frisk, and one that was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in August.
Christina Paxson, university president, will express her regrets to Kelly. Many of those who disrupted the program appeared not to be Brown students. Various factions seemed organized and rehearsed, standing in unison to chant slogans. Many individuals stood and recited short speeches from cue cards. High ranking police officers, including Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements and Deputy Chief Thomas Oates, filled the front row of the auditorium. U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha was in the audience. Marion Orr, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy, which sponsored Kelly's visit, pleaded for “open and civil discourse,” saying Brown’s policy was to include “topics that provoke controversy.” He said, “There are many perspectives in this room. Protest is a necessary and acceptable means.” adding that, “Halting a lecture is an unacceptable form of protest.”