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Anti-Israel Protests Mar Graduation Ceremonies

Graduate students and demonstrators protest the war in Gaza after walking out of commencement at the DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium on May 11, 2024 in Austin, Texas. | Image by Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Graduate students and demonstrators protest the war in Gaza after walking out of commencement at the DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium on May 11, 2024 in Austin, Texas. | Image by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Although the majority of college and university graduation ceremonies across the nation have been taking place this month as scheduled, the war in Gaza and the recent anti-Israel campus protests have left their mark on these usually festive celebrations.

At the University of Texas at Austin commencement ceremony, graduation caps are typically decorated with students’ majors, the iconic UT Longhorn mascot, and quotes about life after college. However, at this year’s ceremony this past Saturday, the war in Gaza was top-of-mind for at least one student, whose cap bore a Palestinian flag with the words “disclose” and “divest” printed around it. Throughout the ceremony, a small plane flew above the stadium, pulling an Israeli flag and a banner that read, “Israel Strong.”

The commencement remained disruption-free as the university increased its security protocol ahead of the event. The university’s security and attendee protocol emphasized that demonstrations disrupting the ceremony or blocking pathways would not be tolerated and agitators would be removed from the venue.

Following the ceremony, a group of nearly 100 students, faculty, and anti-Israel agitators congregated outside Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium and marched throughout campus. The demonstrators wore red gloves or painted their hands red to symbolize “the blood that UT has spilled” by maintaining its investments in Israel, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Some students and faculty left the commencement after the student-led Palestine Solidarity Committee group posted a statement on its Instagram page calling for a walkout halfway through the ceremony.

“…We, the students and faculty of the University of Texas at Austin class of 2024, are walking out of our university-wide commencement ceremony May 11, 2024,” the post read. “It is shameful for us to sit and celebrate the ceremony on this field when there is not a single university left standing in Gaza.”

The student organization was suspended after organizing the April 24 protest, which resulted in the arrest of nearly 60 individuals on campus.

Columbia University also held its commencement ceremonies over the weekend. The university made headlines when anti-Israel protests forced the school to cancel its main commencement ceremony. The university opted to have school-level ceremonies instead of a university-wide event.

On Sunday, a Columbia student wore zip-tie handcuffs to the School of Social Work graduation ceremony. Upon receiving her diploma, she turned to the crowd and ripped the paper up on stage before throwing it onto the floor, per Fox News.

Another graduate reportedly had the name of Hamas leader Mazen Jamal Al-Natsheh written across her graduation cap.

The University of California at Berkeley‘s commencement was also interrupted by anti-Israel agitators. The event on Saturday garnered a mass crowd of chanting graduates who held up Palestinian flags and signs denouncing Israel.

A group of six graduates held up white t-shirts, each featuring one letter of the word “divest.” Other agitators chanted slogans such as “Viva viva Palestina” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

According to Fox, some sections of the stadium were packed full of protesters. There were no arrests made as the protesters reportedly left the ceremony voluntarily.

Duke University‘s graduation ceremony also saw an outcry of protest from some graduates.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who is Jewish and a vocal supporter of Israel, received an honorary degree at the event. Dozens of graduates reportedly walked out of the ceremony as Seinfeld took to the stage. The protesters carried Palestinian flags and chanted “Free Palestine” as they walked out, according to Fox.

The rest of the event continued undisturbed.

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