Berkeley Student Caught Up in Attack on John Brennan


Karina Barcenas

Barcenas took this picture during her visit to the University of Pennsylvania.

For most Berkeley students, spring break is typically the perfect time to explore international cities, unwind on vacation or visit colleges. This year, however, one Berkeley student’s spring break was anything but typical. Karina Barcenas ‘18 tells us about the time she found herself at a protest during CIA Director John Brennan’s foreign policy talk at the University of Pennsylvania.

Barcenas was visiting her brother at UPenn where they went to hear a speech by Brennan. Barcenas gave The Fanfare an account of what happened before the talk was shut down and Brennan walked off of the stage. Barcenas said that Agent Brennan was only able to talk for a few minutes before the protesters began to interrupt. “There was an older lady and a young guy who jumped out and started shrieking, ‘drones kill kids,’ over and over again.” UPenn Law Schools Dean, Theodore Ruger, soon came up on stage, stating that the protesters could not be forced to stop, because of the university’s Free Speech policy.

Protests continued until protesters were escorted out by the Secret Service. “I turned around, and there were two ladies right behind me… holding a big white banner saying ‘The CIA is a terrorist group’ and chanting, ‘torture is a crime,’” recounted Barcenas. Barcenas also mentioned that the Secret Service came to Barcenas’ row to remove a defiant protester who kept screaming, “Don’t touch me!”

In the midst of all the commotion, Barcenas’ brother was able to record a video of the protesters as their persistence forced Agent Brennan to walk off the stage. After the talk was shut down, Barcenas said that most people were upset and because they genuinely wanted to hear Brennan speak, but he was drowned out by the disruption of the hecklers. On the bright side of it all, Barcenas made memories during her visit that she’ll never forget and will be able to tell for years to come.


A video of the protest can be seen here: