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Pro-Palestine Harvard students walk out of commencement in protest

Graduating students chant as they depart commencement in support of pro-Palestinian protesters, at Harvard University in Cambridge, the US state of Massachusetts, on May 23, 2024. (Photo by AP)

Hundreds of students have walked out of Harvard University’s commencement ceremony after the school barred over a dozen pro-Palestinian seniors from receiving their degrees.

The walkout took place on Thursday at the American university in the state of Massachusetts, with the participants chanting slogans such as “Free, free Palestine” and “Let them walk”.

They were referring to 13 Harvard undergraduate students, who had been denied diplomas for taking part in a pro-Palestine protest encampment.

“This semester our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable,” student speaker Shruthi Kumar said.

Kumar said she had to recognize “the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 who will not graduate today,” generating cheers and clapping from graduates.

“I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus,” she said. “The students have spoken. The faculty have spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?”

Commencement speaker Maria Ressa, who is a journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said that “the campus protests are testing everyone in America.”

“Protests give voice; they shouldn’t be silenced,” she noted.

In a written statement, Asmer Asrar Safi, one of the 13 students blocked from graduation, said the penalty shows how far the school will go to silence the voices that challenge their donor base.

“While we will not be returning to this school, we hope that our friends carry the liberatory legacy of the Gaza solidarity encampment alive, and strive even harder for divestment,” he added.

In recent weeks, demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have spread across university campuses in the United States.

The protests began at Columbia University in New York City, with participants demanding a permanent ceasefire in Israel's Gaza war and an end to US military assistance for the regime, as well as university divestment from companies profiting from the aggression.

Israel unleashed its Gaza onslaught on October 7 after the Palestinian Hamas resistance group carried out a surprise operation against the occupying entity in retaliation for its intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

The Tel Aviv regime has so far killed at least 35,800 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured 80,011 others.

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