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Black students at University of Florida repeatedly pulled off stage for celebrating during graduation ceremony

'It definitely was a race thing because other students were doing backflips and received no repercussions because they were white'

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 08 May 2018 14:29 BST
Dancing students feel degraded after being dragged off the stage at graduation

A university has been accused of racism after black students were repeatedly pulled off stage for celebrating during a graduation ceremony.

The University of Florida was forced to apologise for being “inappropriately aggressive” after a white man wearing a ceremonial robe was filmed grabbing several black students who attempted to dance when their names were called out.

Audience members and students posted footage of the incident, which was broadcast by the university’s “jumbotron”, on social media.

Nafeesah Attah, a student who said she was grabbed by the graduation marshal, told Huffington Post: “I had family fly all the way in from London and they didn’t want to see that.

“It definitely was a race thing because other students were doing backflips and received no repercussions because they were white."

She added: “I’m disappointed in my university’s response. Too little, too late.”

Christopher Garcia-Wilde, a 22-year-old who graduated during the ceremony, told the Gainesville Sun he was too afraid to celebrate after watching his peers dragged off stage.

“Both of my friends wanted to celebrate by strolling, which is a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities,” he said. "It’s a tradition to stroll at graduation if you choose to, and people have been doing this for years.”

He continued: “I was actually too afraid because I saw him shove other people. But my two friends who graduated with me really wanted to do it, so they tried. They both were pushed and one of them got an entire bear hug.”

On Sunday W Kent Fuchs, the university’s president, apologised.

“During one of this weekend’s commencement ceremonies, we were inappropriately aggressive in rushing students across the stage,” he said. “I personally apologise, and am reaching out to the students involved.

“The practice has been halted for all future ceremonies, and we will work to make sure all graduating students know we are proud of their achievements and celebrate with them their graduation.”

But Wallace Mazon, another University of Florida student, posted an image of Mr Fuchs appearing to sit by smiling as the graduation marshal manhandled another graduate.

“You saw what was going on and said nothing,” Mr Mazon said.

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