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University of Minnesota Graduates Display Pro-Palestine Support at Commencement Following Protests

18 May 2024: Graduates from the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts made a significant statement of solidarity with Palestine at their graduation ceremony on Sunday. The students brought pro-Palestine banners, flags, and scarves to the event, showcasing their support for the cause.

This demonstration of solidarity follows a series of pro-Palestine student protests that have been taking place across the country and around the world. Earlier in May, an encampment set up by pro-Palestinian student protesters at the University of Minnesota stood for a second-straight day in defiance of police calls to disperse.

The student-led protest group met with the University’s interim president, Jeff Ettinger, to present their demands, which include divestment from companies like Honeywell and General Dynamics, academic divestment from Israeli universities, transparency about university investments, statements in support of Palestinian students and their right to self-determination, and amnesty for arrested students.

“We have been very clear about the intent of this encampment. It is to pressure the university administration to acquiesce to our demands, and we will remain in this encampment until either our demands are met or we are removed by force,” said a protest organizer named Emily.

After the meeting, Ettinger released the following statement: “We had a very constructive dialogue this morning. The meeting had been scheduled for a half-hour but instead we spoke for an hour and a half because we were engaged in good conversation. Both those involved with the protest and our University leaders need to go back and discuss possible outcomes from today’s meeting with our colleagues. When we have updates to share, we will provide those.”

The encampment, which included a medic and supply tent, saw protesters forming a human chain around it overnight. Organizers reported that campus police made several attempts to disperse the crowd but ultimately left them alone.

A spokesperson for the University noted that students were informed they were violating its trespass policy but added, “It was never the goal to conduct arrests.” This situation led to the closure of 13 buildings on the East Bank of campus for three days, affecting students preparing for final exams. The University continues to assess the situation daily.

Meanwhile, the local Teamsters union has demanded the reopening of all closed buildings, citing significant hardships for union employees, and has called for compensation for workers affected by the closures.

While the scene in Minneapolis remained peaceful, other U.S. campuses experienced violence. At the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus, police removed several protesters. New York City police arrested dozens at Columbia University after a deadline for protesters to leave passed. At UCLA, pro-Israel counter-protesters launched fireworks into a pro-Palestinian encampment and used what appeared to be bear or pepper spray against demonstrators.

“It just increases our solidarity with the students across the country. We see everybody standing up for what’s right. It just makes us feel more powerful as students knowing that we can do that too and nothing will stop us,” said student protester Merlin Vanalstin. “The students are strong. We’re going to fight back. We’re the future of this country. We want it to be as good as it can be for us and for future generations after us.”

The pro-Palestine display at the graduation ceremony is seen as part of this broader movement among young people advocating for Palestinian rights and drawing attention to ongoing issues in the region.


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