On Saturday in San Francisco, a Q&A with presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris was derailed when a man stormed the stage, heading straight for the senator. The man grabbed her microphone and began a speech as Harris evacuated the stage and security moved in. Video of the incident went viral over the weekend, because of the alarming nature of this ambush and because of the optics that infuriatingly seems to represent American politics now. At the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum, three women of color sat on a panel publically discussing politics when a white man—later identified as animal rights activist Aidan Cook—barged onto their platform and snatched the microphone to steal their voices and shift the conversation to his interests, declaring he has a “much bigger idea” to lecture on. That Harris was answering a question on the gender pay gap is the cherry on top of this horrid display of patriarchal bullshit.
Here’s a video of the moment, wherein the conversation between Harris, political strategist Stephanie Valencia, and campaign organizer Karine Jean-Pierre was disrupted by the pushy protester.
Here’s how Twitter reacted to the video.
This is a frightening moment, especially in these times. Glad @K_JeanPierre @KamalaHarris and everyone on that stage was ok. Karine's reflex to jump up and protect the Senator was just bloody heroic. Whew… https://t.co/cmF9186oKc— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) June 2, 2019
I don’t have to support any of Kamala Harris’s former policies to be concerned about a white man jumping up into her face. His freedom to disrespect a black woman in a way that was physically threatening should concern us all.— I am the Wil (@WilGafney) June 2, 2019
A white dude rushing the stage and grabbing the mic from a WOC, while she’s speaking about the gender pay gap, and then being escorted away without being charged with anything feels like a short play written to raise awareness about mansplaining and white male privilege. https://t.co/0uGkXwL1VF— The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt) June 2, 2019
A picture is worth a thousand words except this one which is just “Actually…” pic.twitter.com/BdW26cIUos— The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt) June 2, 2019
Here’s Cook’s response to criticism:
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
First off, f*ck that guy. Secondly, yeah, Cook found little support on Twitter.
Omg this is a fucking Portlandia episode— Soraya Nadia McDonald (@SorayaMcDonald) June 2, 2019
I tRiEd To ShOw My PrOfOuNd ReSpEcT pic.twitter.com/xEQUQf3dIP— Mary Heather 🐑 (@MaryHeatherB) June 3, 2019
No, he didn’t. He did it to silence & undermine her, hoping for the “fearful & weak” label, or the “angry black woman” trope.— 👸🏻 An abortion in every pot means women live. (@ThunderHeadFan) June 2, 2019
His nasty behind should’ve been arrested, & this practice discouraged.
It’s just damned dangerous to treat this as a harmless stunt. Protect candidates.
Did he notice all of the women who rushed to stop him & protect the Senator? It's not just optics re: silencing a woman of color, but also one of male aggression & violence against women. Every woman felt that fear in her gut, I suspect. I know I did.— SVoisine (@scv74980610) June 2, 2019
Mansplaining alive and well— Elizabeth Day (@LoveShallTrump) June 2, 2019
As a feminist vegan, I am disappointed to see @DxEverywhere retweeted this clip instead of condemning Aidan Cook’s actions today. His display of white patriarchal entitlement was an offensive, idiotic & futile way to advocate on behalf of animals. https://t.co/k2sBYkXhYZ— Isa Leshko Ⓥ (@IsaLeshko) June 2, 2019
If you are distraught over the optics of an animal rights activist stealing a microphone from Kamala Harris, you are not fully reckoning with our collective crimes against animals.— Noah Gittell (@noahgittell) June 2, 2019
For those of you who were wondering what Aidan Cook's "much bigger idea" was after the mic he stole was cut, it was that he thinks animals are entitled to more rights than women/PoCs. That was his big message. He's your standard fauxgressive misogynist racist crapwobble.— Dr. Ariadne Schulz (@tamanosou) June 2, 2019
As for what Harris had to say about the gender pay gap at the Big Ideas event, I couldn’t actually find quotes online! So congrats, Cook. You sure stole your moment. Thankfully, this wasn’t the first—and likely won’t be the last—time Harris has spoken to the cause of gender parity in salary. Last month, Harris unveiled a policy to close the gender pay gap. She told CNN she’d require companies to receive an “equal pay certification.”
“What I am proposing is we shift the burden,” she explained, “It should not be on that working woman to prove (a gender pay gap exists). It should instead be on that large corporation to prove they are paying for equal work equally. It’s that simple.”
Header Image Source: Getty