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Berkeley Animal Rights Protestor Storms Stage, Grabs Mic From Kamala Harris in SF

The white, bearded male interrupted her as she discussed equal pay

MoveOn Big Ideas Presidential Forum Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for MoveOn

A forum for Democratic presidential candidates in San Francisco this weekend was interrupted by a protestor from the Berkeley-based animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere. Kamala Harris, who was among eight presidential candidates to speak at an event hosted by the liberal group MoveOn, left the stage briefly after a bearded, man-bunned male stormed the stage and seized her microphone.

According to a triumphant press release sent by Direct Action Everywhere, the man was member Aidan Cook, a 24-year-old Oakland resident. He was escorted off the stage by security and not charged with a crime. When Cook grabbed the microphone from Harris, moderator Karine Jean-Pierre stood between Harris and Cook, and Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, took the stage to help escort Cook off. Harris returned to the stage to applause after Cook was removed from the building.

Twitter commentators immediately identified the irony of a white male seizing the microphone from a woman of color as she discussed equal pay for women. Cook’s behavior was criticized as entitled “mansplaining,” and Harris was praised for her poise — though MoveOn was taken to task for allowing the protestor to storm the stage in the first place.

Direct Action Everywhere, whose goal is “total animal liberation” and whose ethos is veganism, has faced scrutiny for its aggressive tactics in the Bay Area and beyond. A Berkeley Whole Foods store, for instance, has been granted a restraining order against the group after repeated protests in its meat department. In 2016, Chez Panisse called the police after a group of protesters burst into the restaurant’s dining room “screaming and yelling,” and in 2017, a co-founder of the group, Wayne Hsiung, was arrested for trespassing while attempting to remove live chickens from a poultry store in Chinatown.

Meanwhile, the incident with Harris wasn’t Cook’s first brush with a presidential candidate: In 2016, he jumped a barricade at a Bernie Sanders rally, too. Sanders also spoke at the MoveOn forum this weekend, along with other 2020 hopefuls like Beto O’Rourke, but this time, Cook apparently found it more expedient to interrupt Harris than her fellow candidates.

Chez Panisse

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