Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupt UC Berkeley's undergrad graduation

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Sunday, May 12, 2024
Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupt Cal's undergraduate graduation
A group of pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted the undergraduate graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley on Saturday.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A group of pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted the undergraduate graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley on Saturday.

Cal's campus-wide commencement honoring nearly 7,000 undergraduates, began peacefully inside Memorial Stadium but minutes later things changed. The protests got loud as more pro-Palestinian students joined in, stopping and delaying the ceremony at times to send their message to the crowd.

"Free, free free, Palestine," they chanted.

ASUC president said in her speech as people protested, "This wouldn't be the first time Berkeley's activism led to global change."

RELATED: Pro-Palestinian chants disrupt UC Berkeley Law graduation ceremony

"This wouldn't be Berkeley without a protest, so I get it," said one student speaker.

The protests got louder as more pro-Palestinian students joined in, some of the demonstrators then walked out of the stadium, protesting outside.

Security worked to remove the protesters, but no arrests were made.

"As a Berkeley student, we have a long history of protesting, we did this for Apartheid in South Africa, it's not any different, 20 years from now the university is going to recognize that," said one student protestor who declined to be identified.

Some universities across the country have changed or cancelled commencement in the wake of campus encampments protesting Israel's war with Hamas but Berkeley's graduation went on as planned.

RELATED: UC Berkeley graduation plans on track despite pro-Palestinian protests

Chancellor Carol Christ attempted to speak over the crowd, calling for tolerance and understanding.

"We have lost the ability to talk with one another. I feel passionately that we must work to regain this capacity with our beliefs and perspectives," Christ said.

Not everybody in the crowd supported this protest. They say it was ruining their big day.

"It's our graduation. Get out," shouted Michaela Forouzan.

Forouzan says she had no high school graduation due to COVID-19 and now her college graduation is being disrupted.

MORE: Protesters at UC Santa Cruz say pro-Palestinian negotiations with administrators have failed

"I can't hear the speakers at all. We worked hard for four years. We are saddened," Forouzan said.

"I've waited for this day for long time. My son is graduating, first in the family. It's disturbing, I understand their feelings, but it's not the time or place," said parent Lourdes Caravantes.

"Our son came here to study engineering, not idiocy," said Victor Caravantes.

UC Berkeley released the following statement: "UC Berkeley strives to celebrate the achievements of our graduates in a safe and respectful environment. While today's commencement was, at times, unfortunately disrupted, it did not prevent us from honoring the hard work and accomplishments of our students."

MORE: Sacramento State becomes CA's 1st university to divest from companies doing business with Israel

UC Berkeley's Law School graduation ceremony was also interrupted several times Friday by pro-Palestinian chants from people in the crowd.

Graduates say they expected commencement disruptions at a university where protests and encampments over the Middle East conflict are happening.

Saturday's protest was peaceful. No arrests were made.

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