NJ grad students will protest John Kelly over ‘abhorrent actions’
Some theology students at Drew University have planned to protest an off-campus event this week featuring former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
"No Cheap Grace for Kelly" is a self-described association of Drew community members who are at odds with Kelly's appearance at the Drew Forum on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Kelly will speak at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown starting at 8 p.m.
Christopher Dwyer, Kirsten Trambley and Sarah Galo are students and co-leaders of the event. A Facebook post attributed to the three students calls Kelly's engagement a contradiction of the school's values, while going further on a separate website named for the group.
"We believe Kelly's abhorrent actions as Secretary of Homeland Security and White House Chief of Staff rise to the level of crimes against humanity, and our school should not provide a platform for him to whitewash his legacy," according to the introductory page of the website, NoCheapGraceforKelly.org.
Trambley said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5 the students "were motivated by our faith convictions as well as our shared values as Drew Theological School students to take action" against Kelly's appearance.
"We are called to action because of our faith, and we will protest this Wednesday because we refuse to be silent during this issue of intersectional injustice," Trambley said.
Among the group's grievances, the protesters say Kelly "developed the current DHS Family Separation policy that has cruelly taken thousands of children from their parents for the crime of seeking refuge in the United States."
The Department of Homeland Security says on its website, "DHS does not have a blanket policy of separating families at the border," while adding the department will separate adults and children under "certain circumstances."
As reported by Business Insider in June 2018, Kelly first suggested the idea of family separation as a deterrent to immigrants entering the country illegally while speaking to CNN the year before.
The protest group also says it was Kelly’s first act as DHS Secretary to enforce the “Muslim Ban,” which the group said placed a "de facto religious test on entry to the United States." While President Donald Trump, during his campaign, advocated for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," his administration has since argued its restrictions on travel from several countries aren't based on religious criteria, but security concerns.
The group slammed the booking of Kelly as "opportunistic solicitation," noting "With one breath, Drew touts a student body in the top 10 in international student enrollment, and with the next they invite one of the leading proponents of the Muslim Ban to give a lucrative talk in our name."
As of Monday evening, there was no confirmed number of protest participants and Trambley said the group's online petition continues to grow, as well.
"We attempted communication with university administration for months and were denied until this past week," Trambley said, while also adding they have been supported by the work of the Office of Student Activities and by conversations with faculty, staff and administration of the theological school.
Kelly is a veteran commander of the U.S. Marines, who served briefly as the fifth U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in 2017. After six months, Kelly was selected to serve as White House Chief of Staff, which he held until January 2019.
After departing the White House, Kelly joined the board of directors for Caliburn International, as reported by CBS News, which said Caliburn is the parent company of the country's largest shelter for unaccompanied migrant children, located in Texas.
The protest is slated to begin Wednesday at 7 p.m. across from Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown.
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