Former FBI Director James Comey took the stage to give the keynote address at Howard University's convocation Friday but was immediately interrupted by a group of demonstrators from the back of the auditorium.
The convocation began at 11 a.m. ET. As Comey took the podium, a group of people rose, singing "We shall not be moved" and chanted statements like "We are here to reclaim this space" and "No justice, no peace."
Comey stood quietly for much of it, then asked the group to hear him out as well. But the group continued. Another group could later be heard chanting, "Let him speak."
After about 15 minutes, Comey began speaking over the demonstrators, saying he appreciated their enthusiasm but wanted to have a respectful conversation.
"I am here at Howard to try to get smarter, to try to be useful, to try and have healthy conversations," Comey said.
Students at the convocation ceremony said on Twitter that a fact sheet about Comey and the FBI was distributed among students. The flyer says Comey argued racism is not a serious issue within policing, that the FBI under his leadership surveilled Black Lives Matter activists and that he popularized the controversial term "the Ferguson effect."
Comey said Howard is a place where people listen with the expectation of learning from others' viewpoints, unlike most the rest of the world, where people "try to figure out what rebuttal they're going to offer when you're done speaking," Comey said. "Sometimes they will pause briefly before telling you you're an idiot."
The school announced last month that Comey would be giving the speech and taking on a special lecturing position at Howard. It's one of Comey's first public appearances since he was fired from the FBI by President Donald Trump in May, which sparked the appointment of a special counsel to take on the FBI's investigation into Russian election meddling.
In his role at Howard, Comey will give five lectures on several topics, officials have said. The topics have not yet been announced. Comey will donate his $100,000 compensation to a scholarship fund that helps Howard students who come from foster homes.
"Howard has a longstanding history of being a vibrant academic community and the perfect place to have rich dialogue on many of the most pressing issues we face today," Comey said in a statement in August. "I look forward to contributing to this remarkable institution and engaging students and faculty alike."