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University of California-Berkeley grads disrupt commencement with anti-Israel protests


The commencement ceremony held by University of California, Berkeley was interrupted by hundreds of anti-Israel protesters on Saturday morning.

Most of the protesters were graduating students, wearing caps and gowns. Pictures show hundreds of students wearing keffiyehs, waving Palestinian flags and holding signage denouncing the Israeli government.

The interruptions follow weeks of unrest at U.S. universities over the Israel-Hamas war, leading to thousands of students protesting in opposition to Israel.

“Viva viva Palestina,” another group was heard chanting during a speech on Saturday. Some sections were completely full of protesters, while others were more scattered.

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Three way image of protesters

Pro-Palestinian students chants in protest during the UC Berkeley commencement ceremony in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, May 11, 2024.  (Getty Images)

Protesters were also heard yelling the controversial chant, “Palestine will be free / From the river to the sea.” The phrase has been widely deemed antisemitic and even caused U.S. members of congress to pass a resolution condemning the use of the chant.

A video posted to social media showed a group of students holding up Palestinian flags and clapping while shouting, “End, end, the occupation.” One section was seen holding a giant Israeli flag as a counter-protest.

UC Berkeley told Fox News Digital that there were no violent incidents or arrests at the ceremony.

“The protesters left the stadium voluntarily. There was no violence. No one was arrested. The ceremony proceeded as planned,” a university spokesperson explained.

“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,” the spokesperson added.

Speeches went on despite disruptions continuing, but speakers occasionally acknowledged the rowdy sections. Sydney Roberts, president of the Associated Students of the University of California, was interrupted during her speech but continued on after the brief disruption.

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“This wouldn’t be Berkeley without a protest,” she said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Grads holding giant Israeli flag

Attendees hold a flag of Israel in counter-protest as Pro-Palestinian students protest during the UC Berkeley commencement ceremony in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, May 11, 2024.  (Photo by Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The Chronicle also reported that UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ commended the anti-Israel protesters.

“They feel passionately about the brutality and the violence in Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians killed and the destruction of educational institutions,” she reportedly said of the students’ weeks-long encampment.

Before the protests erupted at the commencement ceremony, graduating students told FOX 2 in San Francisco that they felt accustomed to protests and did not expect any to get out of hand.

“I know the media might be talking about these protests happening and that it’s disrupting life, but that’s one part of it,” student Kathan Saah told FOX 2. “Life goes on normally, and we try to accommodate the protesters and listen to them.”

“But as long as things don’t get out of hand, it’s fine. We haven’t seen that happen here so it’s been a pretty peaceful situation overall.”

Student holding shirts that read DIVEST

Student graduates hold white t-shirts stating the message, “divest,” as they protest during the UC Berkeley graduation held at California Memorial Stadium following weeks of pro-Palestinian protests in Berkeley, Calif. on Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Photo by Yalonda M. James/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Another student speculated that the commencement would attract protesters, but predicted it would be tame.

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“If something happened at graduation, I don’t think it would be violent,” Reece Murphy said to FOX 2. “It would happen in a manner that is perfectly appropriate, and if someone feels strongly enough to express themselves during their graduation, they should be heard.”



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