Students Confront Petraeus on First Day

Petraeus being confronted by students

General David Petraeus walks along Central Park West as he is followed by an angry group of students. Click to view video (Photo: Percy Lujan)

By Percy Lujan.

A contingent of about twenty students confronted former CIA director David Petraeus on Monday as he exited from his first class at the Macaulay Honors College.

Chanting “Petraeus Out of CUNY” and calling him a “war criminal,” the students followed Petraeus along Central Park West from the college – located in 67 Street – to his vehicle near the inception with 63 Street.

Petraeus seemed undisturbed as the group of students shouted at him and filmed him with their cell phones. He did not answer any of the questions the students posed about his involvement in atrocities committed during the war.

Small child holds a sign condemning US imperialism

About 50 protesters, big and small, gathered in front of Macaulay Honors College to protest Petraeus’ first class. (Photo: Percy Lujan)

The students also chanted “Every class, David” warning Petraeus they were going to protest every time his class meets – which is Mondays from 2:30 to 6 p.m.

As CIA director and commanding general of the Multi-National Force – Iraq, Petraeus has been questioned for his part in the torture of prisoners and complicity with other war-related crimes.

The group of students had previously formed a picket-line in front of the Macaulay Honors College where Petraeus is teaching a seminar titled “The Coming (North) American Decade(s)?” about innovations in energy and technology and the policy needed to foment them. At its peak, the picket-line numbered more than 50 students and faculty members.

Other four students had entered the building with the intention of disrupting the class, but their efforts were frustrated by the heavy security inside.

Glenda Ullauri, 22, who goes to CCNY, was one of the students that went inside the college to disrupt the class. She said that she recognized some of guards protecting Petraeus from a previous action when she went in to disrupt a meeting by the ROTC.

“He’s a criminal. He needs to be in a jail. He does not need to be in a classroom,” said an angry Taff Sourov, 18, who also goes to CCNY. “We would not let any other war criminal to teach in here. So, why are we allowing this one to teach in here?”

Picket-line in front of the Macaulay College

Students and educators gathered in front of the Macaulay College. Then, the protesters disbanded but stood by waiting for Petraeus to exit the building (Photo: Percy Lujan)

Macaulay student Russell Weiss-Irwin, 21, came out in support of the protesters. “I really disagree with the decisions that the leadership of the university is making to make our university more militarized, and I think that the hiring of Petraeus is one part of that,” said Weiss-Irwin. “There is this push to get ROTC back in our campus at the same time they are raising tuition.”

Elisa Osorio, 22, another student from CCNY, had words for students in the honors college. “The students with privilege within Macaulay should be using their privilege to help out the low income and oppressed students that this institutions was founded to help,” she said.


Update (9/12/2013): The university dean at the Macaulay Honors College  Ann Kirschner released a statement on Wednesday about the incident: “While the college supports the articulation of all points of view on critical issues, it is essential that dialogue within the academic setting always be conducted civilly.”

Read the full statement here.

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