Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American political activist and the co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March, was the keynote speaker at the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy’s commencement on Thursday, June 2.
“I’m from Brooklyn and I came here to tell it like it is,” Sarsour said in the beginning of her speech.
Though her speech was met with cheers, it was also met with protests prior to the commencement.
Last Thursday, May 25, a protest was held in front of the CUNY Welcome Center against the very idea of her speaking. The protest was organized by Pamela Geller, a woman known for her anti-Islam rhetoric. And joining her was Milo Yiannopoulos, a man fired from Breitbart after defending pedophilia.
What made Geller protest?
“Linda Sarsour’s pro-Sharia, misogynist, and anti-Sharia remarks should have disqualified her from being honored as the commencement speaker at CUNY,” Geller replied to our email. We asked her why she invited Yiannopoulos as he is known for his pedophillic comments, to which she replied, “That is a false claim. He made one statement that was widely construed as condoning pedophilia. He clarified his statement and denounced pedophilia. I invited him because he speaks unpopular and unwelcome truths without fear or hesitation.”
Covering the protest, was a progressive blog, Hey Ridge. According to their post, there were many people wearing the famous “Make America Great Again” hats, as well as people chanting “Lock her up.”
“There was a guy draped in a flag, yelling at a police officer, who calmly walked him back behind the barricade where he belonged. There were Jews for Linda and Jews against Linda,” the post read. “A guy on an electric-powered skateboard, weaving his way through traffic, waving an American flag.”
When we asked Geller if the protest was a success, even though Sarsour was able to speak, she responded, “Obviously. We had several thousand people at the event, and put CUNY and the media on notice that honoring such vicious enemies of freedom will not come without cost.”
The controversy of Sarsour speaking at commencement, allowed the creation of a new hashtag:#IStandWithLinda.
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Today we let the haters and cowards know that we wont allow you to create an atmosphere that will get our sister hurt!! Just know i will not hesitate to give my life for @lsarsour !! #ImMySistersKeeper #Iworkforthepeople ??@Regrann from @ministter – #istandwithlinda with @alacey11, @msladyjustice1, @mysonnenygeneral, @ericaford_ilovemylife, @kirstenjohnfoy, @dlnyclu, @1199seiu, @tamikadmallory & @jfrejnyc. We will protect @lsarsour – #regrann
In fact, Jewish leaders also released a statement which was signed by over 100 leaders.
“We will not stand by as Sarsour is falsely maligned, harassed and smeared, as she, her organization and her family suffer vicious public threats and intimidation,” the statement read. We unequivocally oppose these assaults against her, and publicly state our commitment to working alongside her for a more just and equal society.”
“I’m proud to join a diverse group of Jewish community leaders and rabbis in this statement condemning the attacks on Linda Sarsour. At this moment when violence & xenophobia are all too real,” said Brad Lander, the 39th District Council member, “it was important to raise a strong, collective, Jewish voice against these threats — and for solidarity, safety, and human dignity across lines of difference. We will continue to work alongside Linda for a more just and equal society. #IStandWithLinda.”
— Sophie Ellman-Golan (@EgSophie) June 1, 2017
According to the NY Post, her speech was met with a small protest outside Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, but there were two dozen counter-protesters supporting Sarsour.
But that did not affect Sarsour.
“And you already know, it’s been a more than memorable and eventful experience for me,” Sarsour said during her speech, “and I’m still standing, still unapologetically Muslim-American Palestinian-American, and from Brooklyn, New York.”
You can watch her entire speech here.