Student Protests at Virginia Commonwealth University and University of California Berkeley Graduation – 2024-05-13 18:56:46

Dozens of VCU and UC Berkeley students staged a protest at graduation, some students left the room(SF Chronical)

DOZENS of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students walked out of their graduation ceremony on Saturday, in part because of the response of one speaker – the state’s governor – to protests on campus.

This comes as school officials in the US brace for possible disruption to graduation ceremonies due to Israel-Gaza war protests.

Dozens of colleges shaken by protests are holding graduations this weekend.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested since protests began in mid-April.

Social media posts on Saturday showed Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students wearing graduation robes and caps leaving the room as Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin began his speech at the graduation ceremony.

Some students had criticized Mr. Youngkin’s selection as speaker that year, both because he opposed a racial literacy requirement being considered by VCU and for saying that camping on a university campus should not be allowed.

Also read: Bangladesh PM touches on human rights and democracy when the US government silences students

Video posted online showed some of the VCU protesters chanting “disclose, divest – we will not stop we will not rest.”

Many student protesters in the US are demanding that their schools, many of them with large endowments, sever their financial ties with Israel.

People were clapping so loudly, audience members couldn’t hear Mr Youngkin speak, Sereen Haddad, a second-year VCU student who helped organize the protest, told the BBC on Saturday afternoon.

Also read: Pro-Palestinian Student Action Spreads in Europe

Mrs. Haddad said about 150 people lined up outside the ceremony, including outgoing students.

Thirteen people, including six students, were arrested at VCU when the encampment there was cleared by police on April 29. (BBC/Z-3)

Mr Youngkin’s speech continued as planned despite the exit. He later posted a message on social media congratulating the graduates and did not comment on the protest.

Also read: Silencing Continues, 2,200 Pro-Palestinian US Students Arrested

At another graduation ceremony on Saturday, University of California Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ opened the ceremony by acknowledging weeks of demonstrations from protesters.

“I am saddened by how this conflict has divided students, faculty and staff,” he said, as reported by the LA Times.

The statement prompted some applause as well as shouts: “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has to go”.

Most of the 20 students stood up and began waving banners, Palestinian flags, and chanting “Free Palestine” as during other speeches, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and they were later joined in chanting by other graduates.

In a statement, UC Berkeley said that the event continued despite being “unfortunately disrupted” and that the protesters who left the ceremony did so voluntarily. No one was arrested.

The protest comes a day after eight students wore t-shirts that read “UC divest” during a law school graduation ceremony.

In the past month, the BBC has counted more than 130 colleges and universities in the US with protests against the ongoing war in Gaza.

Protests on campus have resulted in some graduation ceremonies being canceled, including at Columbia University in New York, which said last week it would cancel its May 15 graduation ceremony for a small celebration to keep students safe.

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