Largely Peaceful Protests at US College Commencement

05:08 May 13, 2024

Largely Peaceful Protests at US College Commencement

Protests over the Israel-Hamas war across U.S. college campuses have led to nearly 2,900 arrests at more than 50 schools in recent weeks. However, most graduation ceremonies over the weekend took place as planned. They also remained largely peaceful.

Duke University

At Duke University in North Carolina, about 30 of the 7,000 graduating students left their seats and shouted “Free Palestine” at the ceremony. Some protesters waved the red, green, black and white Palestinian flag.

The protesters opposed the selection of entertainer Jerry Seinfeld as this year’s commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient. The comedian and actor has publicly supported Israel’s operation in Gaza to remove Hamas.

The Israeli offensive followed the Hamas attack on October 7 of last year that killed some 1,200 people in southern Israel. The war in Gaza has killed more than 35,000 people, including civilians and combatants. Those numbers come from Gaza’s Health Ministry and are not independently confirmed.

Pomona College

Pomona College in Southern California moved its Sunday commencement to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The move came after pro-Palestinian protesters set up an encampment on campus last week where the ceremony was supposed to take place.

Some pro-Palestinian demonstrators tried to block people from entering the graduation event in Los Angeles.

Anwar Mohmed is a Pomona student. He said the school repeatedly ignored calls to consider moving its investments from companies tied to Israel in the war in Gaza.

“We’ve been time and time again ignored by the institution,” Mohmed said on Sunday. “So today we have to say, it’s not business as usual.”

Emerson College

Student protesters at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, shouted during some of the speeches at the ceremony. Several speakers stopped briefly and then spoke louder. Some graduates took off and dropped their graduation gowns after receiving their degrees. Others wrote “free Palestine” on their special graduation hats or wore Palestinian keffiyeh head coverings.

University of California, Berkeley

At the University of California, Berkeley, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a small group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators waved flags and shouted during commencement on Saturday. They were then moved to the back of the stadium. There were no major counterprotests.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The News & Observer reported that pro-Palestinian demonstrators poured red paint on the steps of a building at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The incident happened just hours ahead of the school’s commencement.

University of Madison, Wisconsin

A small group of demonstrators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison organized a silent protest during commencement at Camp Randall Stadium.

A photo posted by the Wisconsin State Journal showed about six people walking through the back of the stadium. Two carried a Palestinian flag. A college spokesman said the group “was kind of guided out, but they left on their own.” No arrests were made.

University of Texas at Austin

At the University of Texas at Austin, a student held up a Palestinian flag during Saturday’s commencement. The person refused to leave briefly before being taken away by security.

Canceled ceremonies

Columbia University, in New York City, where student protests led to other demonstrations across the country, canceled its main graduation ceremony. It has instead held small gatherings for graduates.

The University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, also canceled its main graduation ceremony. It had told a pro-Palestinian student that she could not deliver her speech out of security concerns.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Google Play VOA Learning English - Digdok