Police clash with protesters at University of Virginia; demonstrations intrude on graduations

Police in riot gear have dispersed anti-Israel protesters from an area of the University of Virginia campus where a small group had set up an encampment, sparking clashes between a large crowd of students and state police, local media report.

Footage shared online shows law enforcement spraying chemical irritants and pushing a large crowd, many of them with linked hands, off of university grounds as protesters chant “shame on you.”

Clashes are also reported and some people are seen being detained.

Police surrounded the encampment earlier Saturday after activists set up tents, after several days of mostly peaceful demonstrations that drew only a handful of students, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reports.

Meanwhile, protests at other universities lead to some tensions around graduation ceremonies.

Indiana University’s student newspaper reports that pro-Palestinian protests briefly interrupted the school’s main commencement ceremony as demonstrators shouted out “free Palestine” and “resign” several times during speeches by IU President Pamela Whitten and Provost Rahul Shrivastav.

The Daily Student reports that friction flared near the school’s iconic Sample Gates as graduates attempting to take post-commencement pictures were disturbed by protesters holding signs and chanting. Two separate people confronted the demonstrators, yelling at them, the newspaper reports, and protesters have since returned to their main encampment.

At the University of Michigan, some 75 protesters chanting “Regents, regents, you can’t hide! You are funding genocide!” marched up the main aisle toward the graduation stage, but were stopped by state police from reaching the rostrum.

University spokesperson Colleen Mastony says public safety personnel escorted the protesters to the rear of the stadium, where they remained through the conclusion of the event. There were no arrests.

“Peaceful protests like this have taken place at U-M commencement ceremonies for decades,” she adds.

US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro paused a few times during his remarks due to the protests. Before administering an oath to graduates in the armed forces, Del Toro said they would “protect the freedoms that we so cherish,” including the “right to protest peacefully.”

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