LONDON -- Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was bundled into the back of a police car to escape protesters after a speaking engagement at Britain's Cambridge University on Friday that angered women's rights activists.
About 150 demonstrators, waving banners and chanting "2, 4, 6, 8, no more violence, no more rape" had circled the Cambridge Union Society where Strauss-Kahn delivered a speech on globalization and the Eurozone to a select group of students.
As the French economist left, the angry crowd, shouting references to New York hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo who accused him of sexual assault, tried to scale barricades guarded by police and security officers set up to protect him.
Placards were thrown at the car and protesters scuffled with officers as he was whisked away.
"I don't think he should have been invited here to speak to students," student Morgan Wild, 23, told Reuters. "I think it's part of a crass PR campaign to rehabilitate his reputation and we shouldn't be taken for fools."
"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."
Cambridgeshire Police said a 19-year-old man was arrested for assaulting a police officer and a woman, 22, was detained for a breach of the peace. Two others were arrested on Friday morning after banners were plastered all over the Union Society building.
The Cambridge News website displayed photos showing its walls defaced with messages including "DSK GO AWAY" and "WOMEN DESERVE BETTER."
There was tight security inside the venue with the gray-haired Strauss-Kahn flanked by four burly men during his speech and 25 guards brought in for the occasion.
But even within the historic 19th century building, where politicians such as British wartime leader Winston Churchill have addressed students, he was unable to escape controversy.
One student asked him to explain vaginal bruising suffered by Nafissatou Diallo, the maid behind the sexual assault allegations who is now pursuing civil claims against Strauss-Kahn in New York.
"The reality is that I spent a week in prison. There hasn't been a prosecution," he replied to a rapt audience listening over the faint shouts and sirens heard from outside.
Diallo's lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, spoke to about 100 Cambridge students and journalists on her behalf at a rival event earlier Friday.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Wigdor said he was "flabbergasted" at the invitation. He called it "an affront to all victims of sexual crimes."
"The history of Cambridge and the history of the union are now interspersed with Strauss-Kahn. I don't blame Strauss-Kahn. I blame the union," he said.
A statement posted Friday on the Cambridge 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."
Strauss-Kahn has mostly kept a low profile since New York prosecutors dismissed charges of attempted rape and sexual assault against him in August, based on concerns about Diallo's credibility. But in recent months he has rejoined the international speech circuit.
Though the criminal case is over, the first civil court hearing over Diallo's claims is scheduled for March 28.
Video surveillance footage from the New York City hotel where former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a maid is raising new questions in the case. NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.
Strauss-Kahn was also held for two days in January in a police station in the northern French city of Lille, where investigators questioned him about allegations that a prostitution ring organized by his business acquaintances provided women for clients of Lille's Carlton Hotel.
Police want to establish whether Strauss-Kahn knew that women at parties he attended in Lille, Paris and Washington were prostitutes. His lawyer has said Strauss-Kahn had no reason to think so.
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Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.