As BusinessInsider reported, Petraeus was on the way to teaching his first class at CUNY’s honors college, entitled “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?” He took on the teaching gig as part of rehabilitating his image following an extramarital affair scandal that led to his resignation from the CIA.
The footage, which went viral after being posted to YouTube, showed Petraeus being verbally abused as he left his first lecture as visiting professor at Macaulay Honors College. One protester could be heard referring to the former four-star general as a “piece of shit” as he walked down the street in Manhattan.
Erick Moreno, a 28-year-old linguistics major at CUNY’s Queen’s College, said students would protest every one of Petraeus’s weekly lectures.
“This will be a recurring thing,” Moreno said. “Whatever it will take to push him off our campus we will do. We know he teaches every Monday.”
Moreno said the protest against Petraeus was organised by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY, which consists of a number of different organisations, including Students Without Borders and the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, of which he is a member, and was backed by some faculty members.
The video, which shows Petraeus being heckled and harassed, was mostly met with negative reaction this week, however, with more people disliking than liking the footage on YouTube. New York Magazine noted that Petraeus “comes across better than anyone else in this video”. A comment posted underneath the 1.27-minute film on YouTube, which had been liked seven times, said: “This video depicts CUNY as an embarrassment of an institution of learning.”
Moreno said the organised protest had merely consisted of a loose picket outside the building where Petraeus was teaching, with a list of speakers. He said that the protest had run for two hours from the start of Petraeus’s class, at 2.30pm, and ended quietly after a total of 100 people had attended.
The demonstration in the video took place after Petraeus’s session had finished at 6.30pm, Moreno said. He said the people in the footage “were just students taking their own initiative”.
Students will protest against Petraeus’s presence again on Monday, Moreno said. He said a coalition of groups would form “your traditional picket”, which would be peaceful, and would take place outside the building where Petraeus is due to teach.
“There are other students that are willing to go the extra step and wait for him after class and just make his time here in New York a living hell basically,” Moreno added.
Petraeus, who served as commanding general in Iraq and oversaw all coalition forces in the country, is teaching a course titled “Are We On the Threshold of the North American Decade?”
The weekly class is billed as an interdisciplinary seminar where students “examine in depth and then synthesize the history and trends in diverse public policy topics with a view towards recommendations for America’s leadership role in the emerging global economy”.
Petraeus was appointed director of the CIA in 2011 but resigned in November 2012 after revelations of an extra-marital affair.
“The purpose of the protest is to let the administration know that war criminals cannot be hired, especially on a campus that historically has been a working class institution,” Moreno said. “He is obviously not in our interest. So we want him out of campus.”
Hunter College professor Sandor John, who helped organise the protest, told CNN that “a lot of our students are from countries that have been targeted by the United States.” He added: “We don’t want someone like him on campus.”
In a statement, Ann Kirschner, the dean of Macaulay, said the university was “a place where complex issues and points of view across the political and cultural spectrum are considered and debated in the hopes that we might offer solutions to the problems in our world”.
Kirschner said that “it is important that multiple points of view be heard,” but said “it is essential that dialogue within the academic setting always be conducted civilly.”