Pomona College moved graduation to the Shrine, and protesters followed

When pro-Palestinian protesters camped out last week on the stage of Pomona College, where graduation was scheduled to take place, school leaders decided to move Sunday's commencement to Los Angeles.

The convocation ceremony began at 6 pm at the Shrine Auditorium, but the protesters also left. A group of more than 100 people gathered outside the auditorium on Sunday afternoon and clashed with law enforcement. LA police said protesters charged at them, and one protester said officers attacked people in the stomach with batons.

The college said there would be additional security measures at the event and dozens of Los Angeles Police Department officers were present. Officers stood outside the venue as protesters carried banners and shouted through bullhorns.

Several Pomona College graduates, in full regalia, led the crowd in chants of “Liberate Palestine.”

At times, protesters scuffled with police as officers attempted to secure the area around the auditorium. Officials told KABC-7 that some protesters attacked officers and one was arrested after attempting to attack an officer.

Later, around 6:30 p.m., protesters marched from the Shrine Auditorium and gathered in a courtyard, where a Pomona College student wearing his graduation gown read a statement calling for an end to the war and a separation of universities from financial ties. Was called to happen. With Israel.

Tharwa Khaled, a member of a local chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, said protesters started on West 32nd Street and split into two groups, one on 32nd Street and the other near Jefferson Boulevard.

The dynamics with police escalated “from zero to 100 without any warning,” he said.

Officers pushed Khalid and several others, knocked some to the ground, and attacked them with batons, Khalid said, including hitting several female protesters in the stomach.

“Many of my friends are injured at the moment and are not physically well,” Khalid said.

As soon as officers pushed a Muslim protester to the ground, they pulled her hijab, Khalid said.

Khalid said he saw a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild – who was wearing a neon green hat so he could be easily seen observing police activity – pushed to the ground by an officer.

“It just shows that they're trying to intimidate students and punish them for exercising their First Amendment rights,” Khalid said.

People wear caps at graduation ceremonies.

Protestors outside the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday included people wearing Pomona College graduation caps and gowns.

(Jason Armand/Los Angeles Times)

By about 7 p.m., most of the pro-Palestinian protesters had dispersed from the compound courtyard, and police cordoned off the area around the Shrine Auditorium.

Some family members of the graduates arrived late to the ceremony with flowers in hand, but were briefly turned away by a police-tape line. However, an officer intervened and allowed them inside so they could attend the graduation ceremony.

LAPD Officer Tony Im, a public information officer, said he could not make any statement or respond Sunday evening to what the protesters alleged because he had not been briefed.

Pomona College decided to move up its commencement following USC's decision to cancel its traditional main campus commencement ceremony and hold an alternative celebration at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The event held on Thursday featured fireworks and a drone show.

Like USC, pro-Palestinian protests have rocked the Pomona campus, with student activists demanding that the college publicly call for a ceasefire and the college divest from corporations linked to Israel's war and occupation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Eliminate the endowment fund. Western coast. In April, police wearing riot gear arrested 19 protesters who occupied the college president's office.

Also on Sunday, about 30 students graduating from Harvey Mudd College, a private liberal arts college in Claremont, wrote the message “Cut Defense Ties” on their mortarboards, referencing calls for divestment from defense contracts. Which was also done in other colleges and universities. , a faculty member said on condition of anonymity due to privacy concerns.

The faculty member told The Times that when some students walked onto the stage after their names were called, they took out small Palestinian flags and greeted Harriet B. Mudd, president of Mudd College. Posed with flags in his photographs with Nembhard. Other students held banners that read, “Free Palestine” and “No technology for genocide.”

Sachi Patel, a student speaker who graduated on Sunday, said during her speech that her graduation and degree could only mean so much to her considering that thousands of Palestinians, mostly women and children, were killed in Israeli bombings and ground attacks. , and how their school had not been disinvested yet.

Patel said, “Today I think of the student-led global uprising and resistance demanding the liberation of colleges from apartheid and occupation, and the severing of ties with war-profiteering companies.” She said she stands with the Mothers Against Murder campaign, which was launched earlier this year. Circulated a petition demanding school disinvestment.

His microphone was not disconnected and he was allowed to finish his speech. The faculty member said many graduates stood up and gave him a standing ovation and some families cheered.

Times staff writer Jenny Gould contributed to this report.

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