A group of activists belonging to the anti-war group Code Pink interrupted U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power at Fusion's RiseUp event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, accusing the Obama administration of warmongering.
The interruption happened near the beginning of a wide-ranging discussion moderated by Fusion's Jorge Ramos on topics from Russia to Libya and Syria.
"Hey Power, millennials think you're a war hawk. You're no better than John McCain," shouted activist leader Anna Kaminski, holding a sign with the same message. "I used to admire you. I used to think you were a true humanitarian." Kaminski was joined by two other activists, all in their twenties.
Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, acknowledged the demonstrators. "One thing, though, about living in a democracy is that people also listen and also get to talk, and don't talk over one another," she said.
Ramos quieted the demonstrators by promising to ask Power about the Obama administration’s war record. On Libya, Power said she followed the president’s lead in deciding to intervene militarily. “I’m not going to discuss my position” during that internal debate, she said. “I work for the president of the United States.”
The activists, however, remained behind her for the rest of the interview, holding their signs.
"This is about millennials rising up and fighting for social change, so we were concerned that Samantha Power was going to be the icon this event," protester Anastasia Taylor, a 23-year old international affairs student at Northeastern University told Fusion after Power's exit from the stage.
The ambassador, who did not take questions from the audience, went to speak about the importance of international accountability and learning from past mistakes. She called the war in Syria "one of the most monstrous conflicts we have ever seen," and denounced Russia's repeated incursions into Ukraine, which she said were "well documented" and "outrageous."
"We cannot live in a universe where this type of aggression is tolerated," she said. She added, however, that "President Obama doesn’t think that there is a military solution to this crisis."
Power spoke about the uprisings in the Middle East over the last several years, and the role of technology. The Arab Spring and other global protest movements show social media is "emboldening and empowering for people," Power said. "With social media there are ways of interacting that sort of shield you from exposure, but allow you to see a panoply of people who share your view."
She also spoke of a recent visit to Sierra Leone and the impact of the Ebola virus on communities in West African countries. Citing the "tremendous stigma" associated with the disease, she told the story of an African woman who faced discrimination even after she had been cured. “She didn’t get welcomed back into her community, she was completely shunned, almost as lepers were once shunned,” Power said.
Ramos ended the tense conversation with a provocative question: "Do you consider yourself a rebel?"
The ambassador, didn't take the bait. "First, I have no time to go meta on myself," she said. "I consider myself a diplomat, which means not answering that question."
After the panel, Jorge Ramos interviewed members of Code Pink:
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.
Tim Rogers, Fusion's senior editor for Latin America, was born a gringo to well-meaning parents, but would rather have been Nicaraguan. Also, he's the second hit on Google when you search for "Guatemalan superhero." Tim was a Nieman Fellow in 2014.