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Small pro-Palestinian protests held Saturday during college commencements

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a small group of demonstrators staged what appeared to be a silent protest during commencement ceremonies at Camp Randall Stadium.
Palestinian demonstrators are escorted out of the UW-Madison Commencement.
Posted at 3:21 PM, May 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-11 17:21:27-04

Small pro-Palestinian protests popped up sporadically Saturday as colleges and universities held commencement ceremonies, including dozens of graduating students at Virginia Commonwealth University who walked out on Gov. Glenn Youngkin's address.

While some of the estimated 100 students and family members who left during the Republican governor's speech showed support for Palestinians, others held signs signaling opposition to Youngkin's policies on education, according to WRIC-TV.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a small group of demonstrators staged what appeared to be a silent protest during commencement at Camp Randall Stadium. A photo posted by the Wisconsin State Journal showed about six people walking through the rear of the stadium, with two carrying a Palestinian flag.

Marc Lovicott, a spokesperson for campus police, said the group, which he believed were students because they were wearing caps and gowns, “was kind of guided out but they left on their own.” No arrests were made.

The demonstration came after pro-Palestinian protesters at the campus agreed Friday to permanently dismantle their 2-week-old encampment and not disrupt graduation ceremonies in return for the opportunity to connect with “decision-makers” who control university investments by July 1. The university agreed to increase support for scholars and students affected by wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

Saturday's events were less dramatic than what happened on other campuses Friday, when police made dozens of arrests as pro-Palestinian protest encampments were dismantled at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Those actions came hours after police tear-gassed demonstrators and took down a similar camp at the University of Arizona.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 75 instances since April 18 in which arrests were made at U.S. campus protests. Nearly 2,900 people have been arrested at 57 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from schools and law enforcement agencies.

At VCU, Youngkin, who also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Saturday's commencement, did not appear to address the students who left the event.

“The world needs your music,” Young said during his speech. “You, all of you, will be the symphony. Make it a masterpiece.”