Pro-Israel group says plane flew banner backing US ties

‘No rest till Brown divests’: Anti-Israel protesters interrupt university graduation

College president’s speech briefly disrupted by alumni-led protest calling for it to divest from firms contributing to Israel’s war against Hamas

A message in chalk decorates a sidewalk after a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel encampment was taken down at Brown University, April 30, 2024, in Providence, Rhode Island. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
File: A message in chalk decorates a sidewalk after a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel encampment was taken down at Brown University, April 30, 2024, in Providence, Rhode Island. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Anti-Israel protesters briefly disrupted an outdoor commencement address given by Brown University’s president in the United States on Sunday.

Shortly after Christina Paxson began, her speech was interrupted for several minutes by shouting as she told the graduates, “I would really like to give you your degrees.” She eventually resumed with some people continuing to shout.

“No rest till Brown divests,” the protesters chanted.

A group called Brown Alumni for Palestine said in a news release Sunday that it had led the disruption at the ceremony, where Paxson and the Brown Corporation were conferring diplomas to the graduating class.

Brown Alumni for Palestine said the group represents over 2,000 alumni who have pledged to withhold donations to the university until the corporation divests from companies allegedly contributing to or profiting from the conflict in Gaza.

Another group, the Rhode Island Coalition for Israel, said it had also organized a protest outside the ceremony. It said it had a plane fly a banner supporting Israel and the US-Israel alliance.

Regular anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations ceased earlier this month at a small number of US universities, including Brown, after school leaders struck deals with protesters, fending off possible disruptions of final exams and graduation ceremonies.

The agreements at schools including Brown, Northwestern and Rutgers stand out amid the chaotic scenes and campus arrests across the country since April 17. Tent encampments and building takeovers have disrupted classes at some schools, including Columbia in New York City and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Deals included commitments by universities to review their investments in Israel or hear calls to stop doing business with the longtime US ally. Many protester demands have zeroed in on links to the Israeli military as the war grinds on in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters agreed to dismantle an encampment at Brown. School officials said students could present arguments for divesting Brown’s endowment from companies linked to the war in Gaza.

In addition, Paxson said she will ask an advisory committee to make a recommendation on divestment by September 30, which will be put before the school’s governing corporation for a vote in October.

The nationwide campus protests began at Columbia in response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza. War erupted on October 7 when the Palestinian terror group Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 252 people, including multiple bodies, amid horrific scenes of brutality.

Vowing to stamp out Hamas and topple its regime in Gaza, Israel launched a military campaign that also aims to free the hostages, of whom 121 remain in captivity, not all of them alive.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The tolls, which cannot be verified, include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle.

Two hundred and eighty-eight Israeli soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and during operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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