Days after a video showing former CIA Director David Petraeus being verbally harassed by protesters at the City University of New York went viral on YouTube, a CUNY professor and students said they are organizing more protests to oust the disgraced retired general from his post and otherwise "make his time in New York a living hell."
Petraeus, who is currently teaching a class at the university titled “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?”, originally came under fire when it was revealed he was earning $150,000 for the teaching gig. He responded by announcing he would take a salary cut, in the form of $1.
The video, captured by cell phone on Monday by DeVry student Brian Hudson, shows a group of protesters led by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY following Petraeus on his first day of lectures and jeering at him with comments like, “Piece of s---,” “You are nothing but a disgusting human being” and “war criminal” before chanting in unison, “Petraeus out of CUNY.”
Four days after it was uploaded, the video had amassed more than 260,000 views on YouTube, with overwhelmingly negative reviews from users. “Ironically, this war criminal piece of s---, stone-faced and silent throughout, comes across better than anyone else in the video,” Dan Amira wrote in a post for the Daily Intelligencer.
Despite the unfavorable reactions to the protest, which reportedly involved roughly 100 people including CUNY students and faculty, students from other New York City colleges, labor activists and local school teachers, more weekly protests are being planned.
"This will be a recurring thing," Erick Moreno, a 28-year-old CUNY Queens College student, told the Guardian. "Whatever it will take to push him off our campus, we will do. We know he teaches every Monday."
Moreno said that the verbal harassment directed at Petraeus in the video was not necessarily a planned part of the protest but rather “just students taking their own initiative.”
"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," he said. "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 … He is obviously not in our interest. So we want him out of campus."
The controversy prompted CUNY Dean Ann Kirschner to release a statement addressing the video on Monday, in which she condemned the behavior toward Petraeus, writing, “Harassment and abusive behavior toward a faculty member are antithetical to the university's mission of free and open dialogue.”
“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,” Kirschner said.
But S. Sandor John, an adjunct professor of Latin American History at CUNY Hunter, seemed to disagree. In an interview with Fire Dog Lake’s Steve Horn, John said that outrage over Petraeus’ teaching position was perfectly justified and that participants seen in the video were voicing indignation shared by many.
While John admitted that there was a range of views among protest participants, he said that the goal “is to mobilize mass protest and exposure to drive out ‘Death Squad’ Petraeus and ROTC.”
“A great many CUNY students’ families come from countries directly targeted by the death squads, military coups, drones, spying and mass bombing organized by the likes of Petraeus … and the U.S. military as a whole,” John said. “Together with many others at CUNY and elsewhere who oppose militarism and imperialism, I am indignant at the idea that our university would become in effect a branch of the Army War College or the infamous School of the Americas.”