Barack Obama

Obama's drone speech interrupted by anti-war activist

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 May, 2013, 4:22am

At times, it seemed US President Barack Obama was taking part in a debate rather than giving a speech. Deep into his address at the National Defence University, a heckler repeatedly interrupted from the back of the room, demanding an end to drone strikes and the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

The heckler, who strenuously objected to being described as such, was Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, a group opposed to US military actions. She is a familiar face on Capitol Hill, where she has repeatedly interrupted proceedings.

"Excuse me, President Obama, you are the commander in chief," she yelled as the president tried to continue speaking.

"Why don't you sit down, and I'll tell you exactly what I'm going to do," Obama said.

Eventually, Benjamin was forcibly removed. She later said military police officers and agents from the FBI and Secret Service had pushed her out and questioned her. Secret Service officials declined to comment.

The university said she "was given access via the list of media attendees expected". Officials at Fort McNair, the home of the university, did not return calls.

"People around the world are tired of nice words from President Obama, and they want some concrete action," she said. "Some say it's rude to interrupt the president, but it's rude to kill innocent people with drones."

Before she was removed, Benjamin interrupted Obama twice more. After her first outburst, she prompted a mild lecture about responsibilities in a democracy.

"Now, this is part of free speech, is you being able to speak, but also you listening and me being able to speak," Obama said. "All right? Thank you."