Updated May 12, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Commencements marked by moments of pro-Palestinian protest

Pro-Palestinian protesters rally outside Shrine Auditorium ahead of Pomona College's commencement ceremony in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday. The college moved the event off campus due to Gaza war demonstrations. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Some 30 students walked out of the Duke University commencement ceremony ahead of Jerry Seinfeld's speech in the latest Gaza war protest on Sunday, videos posted to social media show.

The big picture: Duke's graduation ceremony was one of several occurring over the weekend that saw moments of pro-Palestinian protest, with others occurring at Virginia Commonwealth University, UC Berkeley, Boston's Emerson College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

State of play: Clashes were reported between police and pro-Palestinian protesters outside Pomona College's commencement event in Los Angeles on Sunday evening and the LAPD said on X that officers "will remain in the area until all participants have safely left."

  • It added a demonstrator "who attempted to strike an officer was arrested for battery on a police officer."

At Duke's commencement ceremony, official video from the North Carolina university's football stadium showed some booing comedian Seinfeld, who is Jewish, as he was introduced on stage and others cheering "Jerry, Jerry!" It didn't show images shared on social media of the students waving Palestinian flags.

  • Seinfeld went on to accept an honorary degree and deliver his speech before the roughly 7,000 attendees without interruption.

Background: Seinfeld has spoken out against antisemitism and in support of Israel's government in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack and visited survivors of the atrocity in a community near Israel's border with Gaza in December.

Zoom out: College campuses have become protest flashpoints since the Israel-Hamas war's onset and while Gaza demonstrators make up a minority of student and faculty members, Axios' Eleanor Hawkins notes the viral attention generated by social posts and media coverage has helped amplify the pro-Palestinian cause.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of the situation at Pomona College's commencement ceremony.

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