Protests continue at universities across the country during weekend commencement ceremonies


Demonstrations continued and new encampments were formed at universities across the country as commencement ceremonies were held on Saturday, after weeks of pro-Palestine protests that led to nearly 3,000 arrests, according to an NBC News tally.

When Governor Glenn Youngkin delivered the commencement address at the Virginia Commonwealth University ceremony Saturday morning, dozens of students walked out of the ceremony, video Posted on x Has shown.

After several people were arrested at the school last week when police broke up encampments on college campuses, VCU said on its website before commencement that disruption of ceremonies is strictly prohibited.

But student groups, including the VCU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, proceeded with a “silent walkout” in protest of Youngkin's policies and his role in the arrests of pro-Palestinian student protesters in April.

On Saturday, students wearing caps and gowns marched quietly to the back of the Greater Richmond Convention Center, causing some in the crowd to cheer.

The Commonwealth Times, the university's student newspaper, said in a post on x The walkout was “in protest of Gov. Glenn Youngkin's keynote appearance.”

Other footage Posted on

A University of Southern California graduate wore a stole that read “Palestine” at graduation ceremony Friday.Ryan Sun/AP

The school said participants who leave the convention center after the ceremony begins will not be allowed to re-enter.

The university declined to comment Saturday.

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles has scheduled a weeklong commencement ceremony after canceling its main stage ceremony due to safety concerns over student protests. It also canceled the valedictory speech of Muslim student Asna Tabassum, a move that further heightened tensions on campus. USC Provost Andrew Guzman said he canceled Tabassum's speech due to security concerns amid tensions related to “the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.”

Tabassum, who said the university's decision was motivated by racism, walked across the stage at a convocation ceremony Friday night and received a standing ovation from students and the audience, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Senior vice president of communications Joel Curran told the newspaper that the ceremony was “joyful, festive” with “no disruptions.”

Inauguration disrupted by protests Celebrations Friday and Saturday at the University of California, Berkeley. As the school's student body president Sydney Roberts addressed her fellow graduates Saturday, a group of people in the crowd began chanting.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that soon afterward, about 20 students stood up and chanted “Liberate Palestine!” They carried signs and waved Palestinian flags. According to the news outlet, security guards escorted him to the back of the venue.

About 300 other graduates then stood up and moved to a section of the venue and began chanting, the Chronicle reported, to which some responded by chanting “get them out!”

According to the Chronicle, a similar disruption occurred during Friday's ceremony when students at UC Berkeley's law school graduation took off their gowns to reveal white shirts emblazoned with “UC Divest.” The university said in a statement Friday that the interruption “did not impact the proceedings, prevent us from honoring the hard work and achievements of our students, or require us to end our ceremonies prematurely.”

The Wharton Executive MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin will hold ceremonies throughout Saturday.

Officers in riot gear descended on the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia at dawn Friday to arrest and remove protesters who defied earlier orders to disperse. Police said nine of those arrested were students while the other 24 had no connection with the school.

Like other universities, the schools implemented additional security measures and said disruptions would not be tolerated. Officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said graduates must show their student ID card to enter Kenan Stadium and reminded students of free speech laws and policies that include a range of disciplinary actions for those Which substantially interferes with the protected free speech of another person. ,

“This includes protests that limit the ability of others to hear a speaker,” the school said on its website. “The University respects the rights of peaceful protesters. While anyone – including students, faculty, and staff – may assemble and exercise their rights for free speech, state law and Board of Governors policy prevent significant disruption to the operations of the University.

The school – which has seen several campus protests and subsequent arrests – warned that anyone who does not comply will be “subject to arrest.”

Hours before Saturday evening's graduation ceremony, some pro-Palestinian protesters defaced a campus building with red paint and chalk amid protests, WRAL reported. Protestors left red hand signs with messages saying “UNC has blood on its hands” and covered the stairs of the South Building in red paint.

A new encampment was also set up on UNC's campus Saturday, with tents and protesters holding signs that read, “Stop the Genocide” and “End the Siege,” WRAL reported.

Earlier on Saturday, according to WRAL, protesters held a “people's graduation” for students who had been suspended following a separate protest two weeks earlier.

Jay Hartzell, president of the University of Texas at Austin, who has come under fire from faculty and students for calling in state troopers to arrest protesters, said in a video message that the Class of 2024 of about 10,800 graduates is ready to start, but Warned that it would “not tolerate any disruption in your special and hard-earned achievement.”

The UT did not say whether it was increasing security ahead of the festivities and has issued a detailed guideline on its clear-bag policy and which items will be strictly prohibited. Brian Davis, UT's spokesperson for issues and crisis communications, said these rules have been in place for previous graduations, but the university is being more explicit about them this year.




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