A town hall Johns Hopkins University hosted to receive feedback on its memorandum of understanding with the Baltimore Police Department—a precursor to the formation of its own armed, private police force—was abruptly shut down Thursday night after a crowd of protesters made it impossible to hear the event’s panelists, who included Hopkins and police officials, as well as a community mediator. Opponents have long criticized Hopkins’s plan to develop a police department.
According to The Baltimore Sun, protesters chanted for more than 15 minutes before Hopkins officials decided to move the town hall to a fully online format, which the panelists hosted from an undisclosed location. They then followed Branville Bard Jr., Hopkins’s vice president for public safety, out of Shriver Hall, where the meeting was being held.
“At Johns Hopkins, we strongly value free expression and fully support the right to protest. We also believe we must be able to engage civilly across our differences and have difficult conversations about the challenging issues we face together as a community, such as public safety,” Hopkins officials wrote in a statement to the Sun which included additional ways community members can share feedback to the MOU.
After the town hall, university leaders sent an email to students, which several subsequently shared on Twitter, chastising protesters for attempting “to drown out speakers and prevent the back-and-forth dialogue that other attendees had hoped for” and stating that some of the protesters’ actions, including storming the stage and “shouting down and taunting” panelists, went against the institution’s “norms, policies and Student Conduct Code.”