May 18, 2024

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University of Michigan | Pro-Palestinian demonstration amid graduation

University of Michigan |  Pro-Palestinian demonstration amid graduation

Protesters chanted anti-war messages and waved Palestinian flags during the University of Michigan’s commencement ceremony on Saturday.


A protest was held at the start of the event at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. About 75 people, many wearing traditional Arabic keffiyehs and graduation caps, marched down the main aisle toward the podium where diplomas were awarded.

They shouted “Regents, Regents, you can’t hide!” They chanted. You are sponsoring genocide! ”, while brandishing signs, one of which bore the message “No more universities in Gaza”.

Above their heads, “Get out of Israel now!” Airlines broadcast competitive news including Free Palestine! » and “We stand with Israel. Jewish lives matter.”

Officials said no arrests were made and the demonstration did not seriously disrupt the roughly two-hour event that drew tens of thousands of people, some of whom waved Israeli flags.

State police blocked the protesters from the stage, and public safety personnel escorted the protesters to the back of the arena, where they remained until the end of the event, university spokesman Colin Mastoni said.

“There have been peaceful protests like this during commencement ceremonies at the University of Michigan for decades,” he added.

U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro paused several times during his speech, at one point saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, if we could please return your attention to the stage.”

“We will protect the freedoms we cherish most,” including the “right to fight peacefully,” he said before swearing in armed forces graduates.

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The university allowed protesters to set up camp on campus, but police helped disperse a large crowd at a convocation ceremony on Friday evening. One person was arrested.

More than 2,400 people have been arrested

The University of Michigan is among the institutions preparing for protests during commencement ceremonies this weekend, including Indiana University, Ohio State University and Northeastern University in Boston. More are planned in the coming weeks.

Protesters urged supporters to put on their coffees and leave during President Pamela Whitten’s speech Saturday evening at Indiana University. The Bloomington, Indiana, campus has designated a protest zone outside Memorial Hall, where the ceremony is scheduled to take place.

A student movement unprecedented this century has spread across campuses across the United States in recent weeks, with camps of protesters calling on universities to stop doing business with Israel or organizations they say support the war in Gaza. Some institutions have reached agreements with protesters to end protests and reduce the risk of disruption to final exams.

Several camps have been dismantled and hundreds of protesters arrested in recent days. The Associated Press (AP) has counted at least 61 incidents of arrests during protests on campuses across the country. 2,400 people were arrested in 47 different campuses. Figures are based on AP reporting and reports from universities and law enforcement.

“Solidarity Fasts”

In Princeton, New Jersey, 18 students began a hunger strike in an attempt to pressure the university to divest from institutions associated with Israel.

One of them, David Chmielewski, said in an email on Saturday that the protest began Friday morning and that participants only consumed water.

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He said the hunger strike would continue until the university administrators meet the students on their demands, which include stopping criminal and disciplinary cases against the protesters.

Other protesters are participating in a 24-hour “solidarity fast,” he said.

Princeton students staged a protest camp and some occupied the administration building this week, leading to about 15 arrests.

Separately, police broke up a demonstration at the University of Virginia on Saturday, calling it an “unlawful assembly,” a message posted on Platform X said.

Authorities did not say how many people were arrested.

Meanwhile, near Boston, Tufts University students peacefully dismantled their protest camp without police intervention on Friday evening. Organizers of the protest said in a statement that they were “deeply angry and disappointed” that negotiations with the university had failed.

The protests have followed clashes between Israel and Hamas since Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 250 hostages.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza that killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. Israeli attacks have displaced most Gaza residents.