House Majority Leader Eric Cantor abruptly canceled a speech Friday at the University of Pennsylvania that had become the target of Occupy Philly and other groups. Hundreds of protesters gathered at Penn nonetheless, carrying signs and shouting slogans.
Cantor (R., Va.) was scheduled to speak at Penn’s Wharton School at 4:30 p.m. but backed out earlier in the afternoon, indicating that it had been his understanding the speech would be open only to people affiliated with the university.
In a statement, his office said it “was informed last night by Capitol Police that the University of Pennsylvania was unable to ensure that the attendance policy previously agreed to could be met.”
The university in turn issued a statement saying it “deeply regrets” that Cantor canceled and suggesting that there had been no change in the attendance policy.
“The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed. We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the majority leader’s office on the staging of his presentation,” the university said.
The Twitter account @OccupyPhilly, which has about 6,500 followers, raised the possibility of a protest at Cantor’s speech on Monday, and the idea quickly gained traction. A Facebook event page for the protest was created that evening.
Mike Morrill, executive director of Keystone Philadelphia, a liberal advocacy group, said he learned of the cancellation when he arrived on campus around 1 p.m.
Morrill said the protesters expected to demonstrate outside Huntsman Hall while Cantor spoke inside. There were no plans to disrupt the speech, Morrill said.
Sean Kitchen, a protester and a member of the Occupy Philly outreach committee, said Cantor’s cancellation “shows cowardice.” The group later stormed into Huntsman, surrounded the lobby, and shouted: “Eric Cantor, come out, come out, wherever you are.”
On the balcony above, one student held a sign directed at the protesters with the message “Get in Our Bracket,” to which the protesters responded in unison, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
The student later said the sign was a joke intended to persuade the protesters to leave. “I respect their right to organize, but this isn’t the right time and the right place. These aren’t the people they’re mad at. These are students.”
From DAILY Intel at NEW YORK MAGAZINE:
The Daily Pennsylvanian did, however, acquire a copy of the speech Cantor was preparing to give on the nation’s worsening income gap, which started off by riffing on the metaphor of a “ladder of success,” even acknowledging that many are unable to reach the ladder’s bottom-most rungs.
We know that we all don’t begin life’s race from the same starting point. [...] The fact is many in America are coping with broken families, dealing with hunger and homelessness, confronted daily by violent crime, or burdened by rampant drug use. Recently I was asked, “What does your party say to that 9-year-old, inner city kid scared to death, growing up in a life of poverty? What can you do for that little girl?”
He answered: “That child needs a hand up to help climb the ladder.” More money for schools so she can get a good education, perhaps? Or a jobs package so that girl’s mother or father can adequately support her? Cantor’s got something a little more free-market in mind, what he calls the “Steve Jobs Plan.”
I believe that the most successful among us are positioned to use their talents to help grow our economy and give everyone a hand up the ladder and the dignity of a job. We should encourage them to extend their creativity and generosity to helping build the community infrastructure that provides a hand up and a fair shot to those less fortunate, like that little 9-year-old girl in the inner city.
So we’re supposed to rely on the kindness of, basically, the rich to solve the problems of the poor. Sounds an awful lot like trickle-down economics, swathed in Apple’s sleek brushed aluminum.