California schools hold graduation ceremonies with little disruption over Gaza war

Some students wear keffiyehs, peacefully walk out at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, as over 60 largely uneventful graduation ceremonies mark end to chaotic school year

A UCLA graduating student holds a Palestinian flag during the commencement ceremony inside Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus, in Los Angeles, June 14, 2024. (AP/Damian Dovarganes)
A UCLA graduating student holds a Palestinian flag during the commencement ceremony inside Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus, in Los Angeles, June 14, 2024. (AP/Damian Dovarganes)

The University of California, Los Angeles and other institutions in the state conducted graduation ceremonies on Friday with proceedings largely undisturbed by protests over the war in Gaza.

The United States, Israel’s key ally, has seen months of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests ranging from marches in Washington and vigils near the White House to the blocking of bridges and roads near train stations and airports in multiple cities, along with encampments on many college campuses.

UCLA commencement ceremonies were “poignant and simply beautiful,” the school said. UCLA’s commencement celebrations had over 60 events scheduled from Friday to Sunday.

The Los Angeles Times reported some graduates wore keffiyehs — traditional black-and-white checkered scarves that have become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians — at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. The newspaper also said dozens of graduates peacefully walked out of the Luskin ceremony, but that an overall festive atmosphere prevailed for tens of thousands of graduates and visitors.

Commencement ceremonies were also scheduled at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Irvine.

University protests in recent months have seen occasional violence while police have made arrests on campuses to clear encampments. In early May, a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA was violently attacked by a mob after anti-Israel activists were said to have blocked a prominent pro-Israel activist at the school from entering a campus library.

Counter-protesters attack a pro-Palestinian encampment set up on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, in Los Angeles, May 1, 2024. (Etienne Laurent/AFP)

Pro-Palestinian protesters have demanded an end to the war, a halt to US support for Israel, and divestment by their schools from companies with ties to Israel.

A demand by anti-Israel groups at UC Santa Cruz that the school cut ties with three San Francisco Bay-area Jewish communal organizations derided as “antisemitic” by the local Jewish Community Relations Council.

More than 3,000 students have been arrested nationwide, according to the New York Times, as campus administrations summoned law enforcement to dismantle pro-Palestinian protests deemed unruly.

Illustrative: UC Santa Cruz workers who are union members of UAW 4811 and pro-Palestinian protesters carry signs as they demonstrate in front of the UC Santa Cruz campus on May 20, 2024, in Santa Cruz, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

Anti-Israel protests on US campuses began almost immediately after Hamas’s shock October 7 attack, when thousands of terrorists stormed Gaza border communities to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 250 hostages — mostly civilians — amid rampant atrocities.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. The figure, which cannot be verified, includes some 15,000 gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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