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Pro-Palestinian Protesters Disrupt Graduations at Pomona College, UC Berkeley

Pro-Palestinian Protesters Disrupt Graduations at Pomona College, UC Berkeley

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather in front of Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus in Berkeley, Calif., on April 22, 2024. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

5/13/2024

Updated: 5/13/2024

Pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted graduation ceremonies at Pomona College and the University of California, Berkeley, this weekend as the student movement against Israel continued to simmer across the country.
Pomona College, a private university with about 1,750 students located in Claremont—about 30 miles east of Los Angeles—moved its May 12 graduation ceremony to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles after protesters created an encampment on the school’s campus.
Administrators announced the decision to move Sunday’s ceremony two days prior, hoping to avoid clashing with demonstrators.
As friends and family members arrived at the Shrine Auditorium, though, they were met with hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters who had set up another camp nearby.
Police moved the protesters away from the auditorium on Saturday. Social media posts showed shoving and throwing of water bottles.
There was at least one arrest for battery on a police officer, according to reports.
“We’re willing to disrupt all of their events until the administration realizes there is no other choice but to divest,” a person identified only with the name Sinqi told Fox 11 news Sunday.
UC Berkeley’s graduation ceremony May 11 celebrating 7,000 undergraduates started peacefully but was disrupted by several pro-Palestinian demonstrators who shouted from the stands. Some protesters held up Palestinian flags, while others held Israeli flags.
The ceremony was delayed at times as their chants became louder.
University administrators prepared for the protest by boosting security.
Chancellor Carol Christ also acknowledged victims from both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict. She encouraged tolerance and understanding during her commencement speech.
“We have lost the ability to talk with one another,” she told graduates. “I feel passionately that we must work to regain this capacity whatever our beliefs and perspectives.”
Some students were upset about the disruption as protesters walked out of the stadium and continued demonstrating outside.
Graduate Michaela Forouzan told ABC7 News Bay Area she didn’t have a high school graduation because of COVID-19 lockdowns and was saddened that her university graduation was disrupted.
“I can’t hear the speakers at all, and … we worked hard for four years,” Ms. Forouzan said. “We’re extremely saddened.”
Victor and Lourdes Caravantes, parents of one graduate, told the news station their son was the first to graduate in their family. They had waited for the day for a very long time, Ms. Caravantes said.
“Our son came here to study engineering, not idiocy,” she said.
Many students expressed relief that Berkeley’s graduation went forward, considering the main commencements at University of Southern California and Columbia University were canceled over the protests.
Berkeley officials issued a statement about the protest, saying that while its commencement was “unfortunately disrupted,” it didn’t prevent them from honoring the hard work and accomplishments of students.
Requests for comment to Pomona College were not returned by press time.
 
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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