Another pro-Palestinian protester was arrested on the University of Utah's opening day

A protester was arrested before a planned rally in support of Palestine began Thursday outside the University of Utah's Jon M. Huntsman Center.

While family and friends of the Class of 2024 entered the event center with flowers and gifts to celebrate the graduates during the school's commencement ceremony, another group positioned themselves on the lawn in front of the arena and held signs that read “Free Palestine.”

It was the third pro-Palestinian demonstration in Utah this week amid a nationwide wave of protests. Massive protests broke out at around 30 university campuses across the country, with students setting up large camps to protest the war between Israel and Hamas. Some have become violent.

While Protest on Monday evening At the University of Utah, 20 arrests were made after protesters were ordered to disperse their camps. The demonstration on Thursday evening was largely peaceful.

While about two dozen people gathered and before any chanting began, University of Utah police arrested one of the organizers. A school spokesman said the protester had nothing to do with the university and was suspected of illegal behavior during Monday night's protests. similar to another organizer who was arrested on Tuesday ahead of a planned rally and was facing three charges as of Monday evening for alleged trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.

“I didn’t do anything,” the organizer said as he was escorted by about seven officers on Thursday.

Minutes after that arrest, the school's commencement ceremony began in the arena, where more than 8,600 students were scheduled to graduate and some were about to leave during University of Utah President Taylor Randall's commencement address.

As soon as Randall began speaking, some people in the crowd chanted “Liberate Palestine,” which was followed by a sea of ​​boos.

“These have been years of hard academic work by your colleagues,” Randall said. He warned: “Anyone who continues to protest must leave or they will be fired,” prompting many graduates to clap in celebration.

About a dozen graduates walked out and joined student club organizers Mecha de U de Ua socialist organization that advocates for the rights of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, as well as members of the Utah Party for Socialism and Liberation outside of it.

Amanda Azar, a 23-year-old who was graduating with a degree in international studies and human rights, was one of them. She wore her black graduation stole with the red U. logo on the sleeves and said she no longer wanted to wear the U. uniform because she was not proud of the school administration and the way it treated it Protest on Monday evening 19 people were arrested for camping on school grounds.

On Monday, a peaceful protest calling for the university to cut ties with companies that support Israel in its war on Gaza took a violent turn when hundreds of officers dispersed the camp and attacked some protesters in an attempt to arrest them.

“I just want to make it clear to Taylor Randall that we don't support any of this and we won't stand with him or support him if he's not willing to support us,” Azar said.

Police disperse pro-Palestine protests from University of Utah campus

Randall issued one opinion On Tuesday, he said that while students and teachers are welcome to express their views “legally and peacefully,” they do not have the right to violate the law or school policies, such as by building structures or sleeping on them School grounds.

Azar, a Palestinian, was accompanied by her family at the protest outside. She didn't feel bad about missing the ceremony, she said, but she was disappointed in the actions that led to her missing her graduation.

“There are people who are missing out on their lives and their families. I don't want proponents of genocide to speak out. I don’t want to hear what they have to say,” she said.

It was important to her that her little brother, who was standing next to her, could see her taking a stand. She noticed that her family was proud of her for that, she said. At the same time, however, she was disheartened when she heard most of her classmates booing her protest in the arena.

“The people whose students attend this university should be aware that this is a university that will not shy away from putting your children in danger if your children disagree with them,” Azar said. “I find it abhorrent and inexcusable that the university would call police in riot gear to brutalize its students.”

Romney joins efforts to punish convicted protesters

The demonstrations at the University of Utah are part of a movement that is spreading across many American campuses and has been condemned by many Republican elected officials.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, joined 18 other Republican candidates No bailouts for campus criminals lawA bill that would exclude from federal student loan relief any person convicted of a felony under federal or state law related to a protest at a college or university.

Romney, who has opposed President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness initiatives, said those measures were already “unfair and irresponsible.”

“No one should particularly support a taxpayer bailout of students who engage in the criminal behavior we are currently seeing on college campuses across the country,” Romney said in a press release. “Our legislation ensures that students convicted of a crime while protesting on our campuses are not eligible for federal student debt relief.”

Anna Harden

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