Harvard Students Stage Walkout From Graduation to Protest Gaza Situation

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At Harvard, a significant number of students clad in graduation attire staged a walkout during their commencement ceremony this Thursday, expressing their support for Palestine and highlighting the plight of 13 fellow students who were prohibited from attending the event due to their involvement in protest encampments.

During the event, a large group of these Ivy League graduates interrupted the proceedings, vocally advocating for the freedom of Palestine and demanding that the excluded students be allowed to participate, echoing through the ceremony with chants of “Let them walk, let them walk.”

In her speech to the assembled students, senior Shruthi Kumar made a poignant remark about the repression of free speech and expressions of support, which she said had become subject to penalties this semester. She brought attention to the 13 undergraduates who were notably absent from their own graduation, her words prompting applause and approval from her peers.

Kumar expressed her dismay over the campus’s apparent intolerance for free speech and civil disobedience, highlighting that over 1,500 students and nearly 500 faculty members had raised their voices against these sanctions, framing it as a crucial civil rights issue. “Harvard, do you hear us?” she implored.

The commencement also featured Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist Maria Ressa, advocating for free speech. Ressa bluntly advised Harvard, underlining that protest is a fundamental American value that should not be stifed.

The graduation took place against the backdrop of recent pro-Gaza protests in Harvard Yard. Despite the dissolution of an encampment in mid-May, the university’s decision to deny graduation to the 13 involved students underscored the ongoing tensions, particularly after the university’s governing board overruled a faculty decision to allow them to graduate, citing violations of university policies.

In objection to the exclusion of her peers, Kumar declared her intention to exit the ceremony, unwilling to celebrate in light of the suffering of their families. Following her lead, a significant number of students participated in a secondary gathering at a nearby church, focusing on those affected by the violence in Gaza, as reported by The New York Times.

During this alternative “people’s commencement”, the complex spectrum of global sentiment was on display, with some attendees showcasing both Israeli and Palestinian flags, amidst a broader context of recent violent escalations in the region that have stimulated protests and encampments across various US college campuses, leading to numerous arrests and causing institutions like USC to alter their commencement plans.

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