Pomona College Graduation Moved Due to Protests

USC and Columbia also canceled their traditional graduation ceremonies, and protests broke out at several other commencements.
Published: May 13, 2024

CLAREMONT, Calif. — Pomona College was forced to move its graduation after pro-Palestinian protesters set up an encampment on the stage where the ceremony was to be held.

The school announced Friday that the ceremony would be held at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, more than an hour away from the Claremont campus, according to KTLA. The protesters threatened to disrupt the ceremonies as part of an effort to pressure the school to divest from Israel.

Despite the move, which cost the school $100,000, nearly 200 protesters congregated outside the auditorium, holding banners and shouting through bullhorns. Dozens of Los Angeles Police Department officers lined up outside the venue to secure the area.

Tharwa Khalid, a member of a local chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, told the Los Angeles Times that the dynamic with police escalated from “zero to 100 with no warning.” The LAPD declared an unlawful assembly and started moving the crowd back. Khalid said officers shoved her and several others, pushing some people to the ground and striking them with batons.

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LAPD said protesters attempted to block graduation guests from entering the auditorium and a group charged at officers. One person was arrested for assault and battery.

Some graduates and their parents said they were frustrated with Pomona administration for allowing the protesters to impact the ceremony, remarking they did not have high school graduations due to the pandemic and that their first year of college was also impacted.

Similarly, Emory University in Atlanta announced it was moving its ceremony to a venue in Duluth, Ga., over 20 miles away. University President Gregory Fenves congratulated the “like no other” Class of 2024, noting the pandemic interrupted many of their high school graduations and forced them to start college online.

USC, Columbia Cancel Traditional Traditional Graduation Ceremonies

Several weeks before Pomona officials decided to move graduation, USC announced the cancellation of its traditional on-campus commencement ceremony, instead holding a “Trojan Family Graduation Celebration” at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Thursday night.

USC officials announced back in April that its valedictorian, who had expressed pro-Palestinian views, would not be allowed to speak at graduation, sparking outrage from students and faculty. Protests ensued and the school chose to cancel the ceremony.

No incidents were reported at the commencement, which drew about 18,500 people. Historically, USC graduation is attended by nearly 65,000 people.

Columbia University also announced the cancellation of its main ceremony, instead opting for smaller school-based ceremonies “where students are honored individually alongside their peers.” The decision came after protesters camped out for two weeks on the South Lawn where graduation is traditionally held.

Back in November, Columbia suspended two pro-Palestinian student groups for allegedly violating school policies.

Graduation Protests at the University of Michigan, Indiana University

Last weekend, ceremonies at the University of Michigan and Indiana University Bloomington were also impacted by protests.

More than 100 University of Michigan students interrupted the ceremony with chants, Palestinian flags, and banners, Michigan Public reports. After a few minutes, police cordoned off the protest in the rear of the stadium. Several non-protester students in the area left their seats to move to seats in the bleachers.

At Memorial Stadium in Indiana, a plane with a banner reading “LET GAZA LIVE!” flew overhead, and a group of graduating students staged a walkout.

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