By Justin Sink and Amie Parnes - 05/23/13 07:02 PM EDT
President Obama was interrupted by a Code Pink protester during his speech Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington.
The interruption first came as the president called on Congress to allow for the transfer of detainees from the Guantánamo prison and persisted as the president attempted to continue his speech.
At first, the president pleaded with Benjamin to "let me finish."
"Why don't you sit down and I'll tell you exactly what I'm going to do ... This is part of free speech, you being able to speak but also you listening. And me be able to speak," Obama said.
Security officials surrounded Benjamin, but initially decided to let her stay.
Later, as Obama bemoaned that "history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism," he acknowledged her protest.
"I'm willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it's something worth being passionate about," Obama said.
But Obama was interrupted again, with Benjamin repeatedly shouting that, "I love my country. I love the rule of law."
At that point, security officials ushered her from the auditorium, which sat about 300 people.
After a long pause, the president acknowledged that he had been knocked "off script." But, he said, the protest underscored the complexities at hand.
"The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to," Obama said. "Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously, she wasn't listening to me in much of what I said, but these are tough issues, and the suggestion we can gloss over them is wrong."
The president again noted the protest in the conclusion of his speech, likening her shouting to "parents taking kids to school, immigrants coming to our shores, fans taking in a ballgame, [and] a veteran starting a business," as subtle indications terrorism would be defeated.
In a statement released Thursday, the National Defense University said Benjamin had obtained media credentials to attend the speech.
"When it was apparent this individual would not be deterred by the President’s effort to address her concerns, officials from the National Defense University staff and Base Police asked her to leave and escorted her from the venue," the school said. "She has been questioned by Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall police."
This story was last updated at 6:35 p.m.