Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/Noah Berger
Disruptive technology.

Dear Peter Thiel: This is what disruption looks like

By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

A speech by the PayPal co-founder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel at University of California Berkeley ended abruptly Wednesday night when a crowd protesting the recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police entered the lecture hall and overran the stage.

Carrying signs referencing the teenager Michael Brown’s police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and decrying police brutality, the crowd from the university—one with a venerable history of social justice activism and protest—pushed through the locked doors of the hall. They chanted “Our university!” and “No NSA, no police state.”

“This is really Berkeley,” Thiel said with a chuckle a few minutes before the event’s end, as the protestors demonstrated just outside the room. Thiel left as the protestors streamed in.

Thiel’s audience, displeased with the interruption, booed the protestors and later responded to the chants of “Black lives matter!” with a chorus of “Peter Thiel matters!”

Thiel had been speaking to the Berkeley Forum, an undergraduate-run organization at the university, about his philosophies on startups and globalization.

Protests at Berkeley have been going since November 24, when a Missouri grand jury failed to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Here’s a video of the occurrence (with lots of angry F-bombs in the second half of the video). The protestors can be heard throughout, and enter the room at about 2.5 minutes in.