Virginia students walk out of graduation in support of Gaza as Republican governor speaks

Dozens of students walked out during Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s commencement address on Saturday

Andrea Cavallier
Saturday 11 May 2024 22:21 BST
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Virginia Commonwealth University students walk out of graduation as Republican governor speaks on Saturday
Virginia Commonwealth University students walk out of graduation as Republican governor speaks on Saturday (National Students for Justice in Palestine)

Dozens of Virginia Commonwealth University students walked out of their graduation ceremony during Governor Glenn Youngkin’s commencement address on Saturday.

Some students who walked out toldThe Washington Post that they were protesting the Republican governor’s educational policies while others said they wanted to demonstrate support for Palestine.

Protests have erupted on college campuses across the country in recent weeks as students demand that their schools financially cut ties from Israel amid the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Photos and videos posted to social media showed students filing out of the Greater Richmond Convention Center as Gov. Youngkin began his address. Students who walked out were told they would not be able to come back inside.

Virginia Commonwealth University students walked out of their graduation ceremony during Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s commencement address on Saturday
Virginia Commonwealth University students walked out of their graduation ceremony during Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s commencement address on Saturday (National Students for Justice in Palestine)

Despite the walk out, and a brief round of applause for the protesters, Mr Youngkin finished his address.

He later posted a message on X offering his congratulations to students but did not address the protests.

The choice of Gov Youngkin as commencement speaker drew criticism from some for his opposition to a racial literacy requirement being considered by the school, as well as his comments that encampments on college campuses should not be allowed, according to the BBC.

A number of universities at the centre of the Gaza protests are holding graduation ceremonies this weekend while others have been cancelled.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin gave the commencement address at VCU on Saturday
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin gave the commencement address at VCU on Saturday (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

According to The Associated Press, there have been at least 75 protests since 18 April in which arrests were made on US campuses. Nearly 2,900 people have been arrested at 57 colleges and universities.

At Virginia Commonwealth, there were 13 people, including six students, arrested when the encampment there was cleared by police on 29 April.

The protests began nearly three weeks ago at Columbia University in New York City.

Some colleges nationwide cracked down immediately, while others tolerated the demonstrations. Some recently started calling in the police, citing concerns about disruptions to campus life and safety.

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