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Brown University president’s commencement speech briefly interrupted by protesters

May 26, 2024, 1:29 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Protesters briefly disrupted an outdoor commencement address given by Brown University’s president 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.

A group called Brown Alumni for Palestine said in a news release Sunday that it 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 contributing to or profiting from the conflict in Gaza.

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

Anti-war demonstrations ceased earlier this month at a small number of universities, including Brown, after school leaders struck deals with pro-Palestinian 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 nationwide 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 U.S. ally. Many protester demands have zeroed in on links to the Israeli military as the war grinds on in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian 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 Sept. 30, which will be put before the school’s governing corporation for a vote in October.

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Brown University president’s commencement speech briefly interrupted by protesters