May 2, 2024 - Politics

University of Utah to boost security at graduation amid campus protests

Illustration of a large picket sign next to a group of smaller picket signs.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The University of Utah will increase security and the number of police officers at Thursday evening's graduation ceremony amid ongoing pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

State of play: Rebecca Walsh, a university spokesperson, said the security measures will be similar to that of a football or basketball game and a clear bag mandate will be in place at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, where commencement will take place.

  • Demonstrators plan to hold another protest at 5:30pm — a half hour before the school's commencement ceremony starts.
  • Activists are urging graduates, students and school employees to walk out during university president Taylor Randall's speech.

What they're saying: "We hear the protesters, and they have the right to express their viewpoints," Walsh said in a statement. "They do not, however, have the right to disrupt this celebration of their peers' years of hard work and academic achievements."

  • Walsh added protesters are welcome to "express their opinions outside."

Catch up quick: Protests at the University of Utah began peacefully on Monday, but eventually led to violent clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement authorities.

  • 20 people have been arrested since Tuesday, according to the university. Most were not students.
  • Utah Democrats have defended the demonstrators' rights to peacefully protest on campus.

The big picture: Demonstrations and encampments on college campuses calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment in Israel erupted in late April across the nation, sparking arrests and faculty walkouts in solidarity, Axios' Russ Contreras writes.

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