California Sen. Kamala Harris’ appearance at MoveOn’s Big Ideas Forum in San Francisco Saturday afternoon was interrupted by an animal rights activist who jumped onstage and grabbed her microphone.
The 2020 presidential candidate was poised to answer a question on the gender pay gap when the protester appeared. He was wearing a black T-shirt and a press badge. As he walked towards Harris, moderators Stephanie Valencia and Karine Jean-Pierre immediately moved to intervene, CBS News reports.
Harris remained calm when he took the mic from her. She moved over to the opposite end of the stage as he began to talk.
“We were protesting just a few minutes ago asking for your attention to a much bigger idea,” he said as security jumped on the stage. Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, also entered the fray and wrestled the microphone away from the protester as he was walked off.
Harris re-entered the stage amid the crowd chanting her name — ”Ka-ma-la, Ka-ma-la!” — and reassured the audience that all was fine.
“I'm good, I'm good. It's all good," she said as the event continued. Emhoff shared a status update afterward, tweeting, “Thx for all the kind notes. We are good. I love @KamalaHarris and would do anything for her.”
Thx for all the kind notes. We are good. I love @KamalaHarris and would do anything for her. ❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/2uGIJUTLCf— Douglas Emhoff (@douglasemhoff) June 2, 2019
In response to the incident, MoveOn tweeted, “We sincerely regret that a protestor [sic] was able to gain access to the stage at our forum today & we apologize to Sen. @KamalaHarris. The protestor was removed & the program resumed. MoveOn members were excited to hear Harris continue to discuss her Big Idea to achieve pay equity.”
We sincerely regret that a protestor was able to gain access to the stage at our forum today & we apologize to Sen. @KamalaHarris. The protestor was removed & the program resumed. MoveOn members were excited to hear Harris continue to discuss her Big Idea to achieve pay equity.— MoveOn (@MoveOn) June 2, 2019
The protester was later identified as 24-year-old Aidan Cook. Cook and several other demonstrators at the event were representing the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, which aims to draw attention to factory farm practices and their link to climate change. After the incident, Cook told The Guardian that the group approached Harris because she is a California senator, not because of her presidential candidacy or any previous position she has had on the issue.
“I tried to show my profound respect for each of the people onstage,” Cook said.
I asked Aidan Cook, an animal rights activist who jumped onstage to interrupt Kamala Harris, if he had considered the optics of literally taking the microphone away from women of color.— Lois Beckett (@loisbeckett) June 1, 2019
“I did,” he said. “I tried to show my profound respect for each of the people onstage.” pic.twitter.com/uyMpV82lVP
This isn’t the first time Cook has pulled this kind of stunt. In 2016, he and a few others rushed the stage at a Bernie Sanders event in Oakland to call for a stronger animal rights platform, per Splinter.
In a press release following Cook’s display at the MoveOn event, Direct Action Everywhere co-founder Wayne Hsiung said, “Progressive candidates should be advocating for vulnerable populations, not abusive corporations. Families of ordinary Americans are being endangered, and whistleblowers who expose criminal violations are being targeted. The typical voter — especially in the Democratic party — doesn’t approve, so we’re asking for the party to end its support for corporate Big Ag.”