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DHS chief walks off stage after protesters drown out immigration speech

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By Dartunorro Clark  with NBC News Politics
Image: Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan attends the Migration Policy In
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan leaves the stage after being interrupted by protesters at the Migration Policy Institute annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference in Washington on Oct. 7, 2019.   -   Copyright  Yuri Gripas Reuters

Protesters interrupted acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan's speech at an immigration conference on Monday, prompting the official to get visibly unsettled, abruptly end his speech, and walk off stage.

The demonstrators quickly drowned out McAleenan's speech as he stepped to the lectern to deliver his remarks at the Georgetown University-hosted event, shouting, "Immigrants are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back" and "Children are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back." Protesters also held a banner that read, "Hate is not normal."

The demonstrators appeared to shout the names of multiple migrants who have died in immigration custody in recent months, including several children. The treatment of immigrants at border facilities has roiled McAleenan's tenure since he took over the agency this past Aprilfollowing then-DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation.

The event's moderator then tried to quell the shouting, which drew favorable applause from some members of the audience. McAleenan then attempted to persuade the audience to no avail.

"As a career law enforcement professional, I've decided my career to protecting the right to free speech and all the values we hold dear in America from all threats, so we'll go ahead and try one more time," he said⁠— to which a protester yelled out "bullsh—t."

After moderators tried again to simmer the demonstration, McAleenan restarted his speech but soon walked off stage when the chanting began once more.

McAleenan's predecessor was also subject to protests over the Trump administration's hard-line immigration policies, especially the practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. Last year, Nielsen wasinterrupted by protesters during a dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Washington.