Pro-Palestine protests continue at graduations

Pro-Palestinian protests dwindled on campuses over the weekend as some US college graduations were marked by defiant acts.

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May 13, 2024 - 2:04 PM

Palestinian insignia are seen on the stole of a graduate during commencement for the University of Southern California Friday, in Los Angeles. Photo by AP Photo/Ryan Sun

(AP) — A tiny contingent of Duke University graduates opposed pro-Israel comedian Jerry Seinfeld speaking at their commencement in North Carolina Sunday, with about 30 of the 7,000 students leaving their seats and chanting “free Palestine” amid a mix of boos and cheers.

Some waved the red, green, black and white Palestinian flag. Seinfeld, whose namesake sitcom was one of the most popular in U.S. television history, was there to receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

The stand-up comic turned actor, who stars in the new Netflix movie “Unfrosted,” has publicly supported Israel since it invaded Gaza to dismantle Hamas after the organization attacked the country and killed some 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The small student protest Sunday at Duke’s graduation in Durham, North Carolina, was emblematic of campus events across the U.S. Sunday after weeks of student protests resulted in nearly 2,900 arrests at 57 colleges and universities.

Students at campuses across the U.S. responded this spring by setting up encampments and calling for their schools to cut ties with Israel and businesses that support it. Students and others on campuses whom law enforcement authorities have identified as outside agitators have taken part in the protests from Columbia University in New York City to UCLA.

Police escorted graduates’ families past a few dozen pro-Palestinian protesters who tried to block access to Sunday evening’s commencement for Southern California’s Pomona College.

After demonstrators set up an encampment last week on the campus’ ceremony stage, the small liberal arts school moved the event 30 miles from Claremont to the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. Tickets were required to attend the event, which the school said would include additional security measures.

At the University of California, Berkeley, on Saturday, a small group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators waved flags and chanted during commencement and were escorted to the back of the stadium, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. There were no major counterprotests, but some attendees voiced frustration.

“I feel like they’re ruining it for those of us who paid for tickets and came to show our pride for our graduates,” said Annie Ramos, whose daughter is a student. “There’s a time and a place, and this is not it.”

This weekend’s commencement events remained largely peaceful.

At Emerson College in Boston, some students took off their graduation robes and left them on stage. Others emblazoned “free Palestine” on their mortar boards. One woman, staring at a camera broadcasting a livestream to the public, unzipped her robe to show a kaffiyeh, the black and white checkered scarf commonly worn by Palestinians.

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