Around 150 people gathered near the center of the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus to protest an appearance by President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Wednesday.
Lewandowski spoke during an event called ‘Inside Trumpism’ at the school’s Institute of Politics, which hosts a series of events for students and the public under the leadership of director David Axelrod, political analyst and adviser to former President Barack Obama.
Demonstrators said there has been a significant uptick in white supremacist activity on campus, and that inviting Lewandowski, and before him, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, only empowers those hate groups.
Protesters, including students, professors, employees of the university and members of the general public, were also upset that the event was closed to the media in what they called a “private” conversation.
“It would be bad enough for them to be hosting these figures at all,” associate professor of philosophy Anton Ford said in a release. “But to have this event as a private, off-the record ‘conversation’ means that Lewandowski is even less likely to be challenged and questioned publicly.”
The Institute of Politics pushed back on claims that Lewandowski’s appearance represented tacit support for the Trump administration, reiterating in a statement that the organization is non-partisan.
“The University of Chicago Institute of Politics is non-partisan and since its inception has hosted hundreds of speakers from across the political spectrum, including supporters and vocal critics of the Trump administration,” a spokesperson for the Institute of Politics said.
“With any administration, we would be remiss if we did not invite guests who could provide insights into the administration’s thinking and approach to governing. In Wednesday’s seminar, students will have the opportunity to question Corey Lewandowksi on these and many other topics related to the Trump campaign. Consistent with the values of the University and the IOP, people are free to contest, criticize, and protest views expressed on campus so long as they do not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of others to express their views.”
But protests continued outside the school’s Quadrangle Club Library, with participants carrying signs reading “No hate,” “Students against bigotry” and even a large banner that said “Trump/Pence Regime – Illegitimate Fascist.”
“I think the administration as it stands now is not interested in both sides of the aisle,” student Zachary Sheldon said during the protest. “It’s interested in making it impossible for places like this to exist – places that are diverse, places that are multicultural, places that are international.”
“This is a free-thinking institution,” added University of Chicago employee Patricia Grabovac. “Anybody is welcome here, and we have the freedom to protest as well.”