About 100 students protested Friday ahead of 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 scheduled to speak on Europe's financial crisis at the university's debating society later Friday despite calls for the event to be canceled. The protesters said the 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."
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."