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Students in Britain protest Strauss-Kahn speech

By Jill Lawless

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 9 2012 3:10 p.m. MST

Protesters march through the streets to the Cambridge University Students' Union in Cambridge, England, in protest of former head of IMF Dominic Strauss-Kahn who is due to address the students, Friday, March 9, 2012. The protesters said the university should not give a platform to a man with such a troubling attitude toward women, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's career collapsed after he was charged with sexual assault.

Sang Tan, Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, England — More than 100 students protested Friday outside a speech at Cambridge University by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief whose career collapsed after he was charged with sexual assault.

The 62-year-old French politician, often called DSK, was invited to speak at the university's debating society despite calls for the event to be canceled.

Reporters were not allowed at the event, but students who attended said Strauss-Kahn spoke about his time at the IMF and the financial problems facing Europe. When asked about the sexual charges against him, he said he was not guilty of anything.

"Apart from that awkward question, everything was good. Most people were respectful," said Sara Velezmoro, an economics student.

The protesters — who waved placards proclaiming "DSK not welcome here" — said the 800-year-old university should not give a platform to a man with such a troubling attitude toward women.

"It's got nothing to do with freedom of speech," said student Francesca Williams, 21. "They're inviting a man who hates women. I don't think DSK should be given the privilege of speaking in front of a private audience."

Security staff carefully checked the IDs of students attending the event, and Strauss-Kahn was driven in through a side entrance before protesters arrived.

Earlier, police arrested a man and a woman, both in their early 20s, on suspicion of vandalizing The Cambridge Union Society building. The Cambridge News website displayed photos showing its walls defaced with messages including "DSK GO AWAY" and "WOMEN DESERVE BETTER."

Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the IMF after allegations last May that he sexually assaulted New York hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo. Prosecutors later dropped criminal charges against him, but Diallo has brought a civil case against him.

In an unrelated case, he was questioned by police in Lille, France, last month about a suspected hotel prostitution ring.

Diallo's lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, spoke to about 100 Cambridge students and journalists on her behalf at a rival event earlier Friday. Letting Strauss-Kahn speak at the prestigious university was "giving him a platform to use Cambridge University to help his publicity campaign," Wigdor said.

A statement posted Friday on the debating union's website said the invitation was made well before Strauss-Kahn's controversial departure from the IMF. His experience in French politics mean that he was "exceptionally well qualified" to speak on the financial crisis and the French presidential election, it said.

Some of those attending the speech, many of them economics or politics students, agreed. They said they wanted to hear about Strauss-Kahn's experiences in the IMF and politics, not his personal life.

"This is a forum for free speech," said politics student Milad Matin, 21. "It's not a value judgement. I'm not endorsing rape by watching him speak."

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