Under the sweltering heat of the midday sun, Black Lives Matter protesters stood shoulder to shoulder in silent protest as Heather Mac Donald, author of the controversial book “The War On Cops,” argued just doors away that their social movement has done more to hurt their country than to help it.
Mac Donald, a fellow for the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of the City Journal, rose to prominence after coining the term “The Ferguson Effect” in an op-ed in the Washington Post, which argued that violent crime has recently increased in many American cities due to the fact that a false narrative of police brutality, spread by groups like BLM, have forced officers to decrease the use of proactive policing.
Since then, she has been a guest on the Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor," written various op-eds for The Wall Street Journal and was even mentioned by President Donald Trump during a speech in Everett, Wash.
Invited by the Penn Federalist Society, a group of nonpartisan conservative and libertarian students, Mac Donald spoke at Penn Law School on Wednesday.
When members of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Assembly learned that Mac Donald was scheduled to speak, they used social media to organize a protest against the controversial speaker, said Lisette Enumah, a third-year Ph.D. student and the co-president BGPSA.
“Black Lives Matter is a movement and an organization that has guideline principles that are more universal than what Heather Mac Donald does not understand. It extends beyond police brutality,” Enumah said.
But once Penn Law administrators caught wind of the impending protest, they decided that the event would be closed off to non-Penn Law students.
“The arrangement to bar non-law student from the event was worked out with the sponsor of the event, the Federalist Society, and the Office of Student affairs,” Steve Barnes, the Associate Dean for Communications at Penn Law said. “We wanted to ensure that the event ran smoothly in the spirit of open dialogue.”
Barnes, who handed out bottles of water to protesters, said there were no measures in place to allow protesters to ask Mac Donald questions.
Members of the Penn Federalist Society declined to comment.
Once organizers discovered that they would be barred from the actual discussion, they decided to conduct a silent protest outside.
“There is a time for peace and there is a time for radicalism,” said Brie Starks, a School of Social Policy & Practice and the vice president of BGAPSA. “And at this time, and the way the climate is, we didn’t want to be radical. We wanted to be peaceful in our approach while also still making a statement.”
When reporters were given access to the remaining 15 minutes of Heather Mac Donald’s lecture, she took a final question from the audience and a law student criticized her for dismissing many occurrences of African Americans being killed by law enforcement.
As the talk ended, those in attendance were asked to remain seated until she was safety escorted out of the building.