A group of Occupy protesters mainly comprised of AU students crashed the Conservative Political Action Conference Feb. 11 at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel by heckling former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during her speech.
About 15 protesters participated in a “mic check” during the speech, which consisted of one person shouting and the group following his lead. Leo Zausen, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences, led the “mic check.”
The group was thrown out of the conference by a mix of Secret Service members, police and volunteers, Zausen said. The audience shouted “USA! USA!” as the demonstrators left.
“It was for the purpose of getting our voice heard and letting people know what we actually stand for,” said Ashley Weston, a freshman in the School of International Service who participated in the “mic check.”
Zausen said CPAC officials expelled the group without a specific reason.
“I would imply that we were interrupting Sarah Palin’s speech,” Zausen said. “But we were just using our first amendment just like she was using hers so we had every right to be in there as she did.”
The protesters said the goal of the “mic check” was to read Occupy’s declaration. However, they were thrown out of the hotel before they could do so. Weston said the protesters read the declaration on the street outside of the conference instead.
“We weren’t trying to make a whole commotion,” Weston said. “We weren’t trying to make this a big deal. It was supposed to be just a peaceful thing: We go, we say a little bit, we say a little something, and then, regardless of whether or not we were thrown out of the hotel, we were going to exit peacefully after we’ve said what we wanted to say.”
AU student demonstrators each paid the $35 entrance fee to get into the hotel. Weston said some protestors obtained media passes by posing as staffers of The Eagle because some had previously written for the publication.
“We weren’t trying to affiliate with anyone else,” she said.
The Eagle did not order any former or current staff to cover the event.