May 21, 2017
Over 100 members of the University of Notre Dame's latest graduating class walked out Sunday as commencement speaker Vice President Mike Pence began his address.
The former Indiana governor "has supported policies that have targeted the weakest and most vulnerable among us," said graduate student Luis Miranda to NBC affiliate WNDU before graduation day. "These are my classmates; these are my friends; these are our family members as well. We're standing up for them. We're standing up for their dignity."
The planned protest at the Catholic, Indiana school was taken to merely follow its mission to "create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice," a press statement from the coalition WeStandForND, which organized the action, says.
As governor and vice president, WeStandForND says, Pence "has targed the civil rights protections of members of the LBGT+ community, rejected the Syrian refugee resettlement program, supported and unconstitutional ban of religious minorities, and fought against sanctuary cities. All of these policies have marginalized our vulnerable sisters and brothers for their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.
The Washington Post has video of the walkout:
Bill Dimaro said he was proud of his graduating daughter, Cassandra, for taking part in the action.
"We love our daughter and we support her. And number two, we need to show the world that there has to be tolerance, and we need to me more inclusive and wrap our arms around one another, even if we have different beliefs," he said to the South Bend Tribune.
After walking out, one unidentified graduate said to CNN: "Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are. And if you are trying to silence, not listen to the preferences of one group, and their families, then you're not listening to any of us. That was what we wanted to say to the administration."
Pence protesters were also gathered outside the graduation ceremony.
The vice president, for his part, said during his address to the roughly 3,000 graduates: "As you, our youth, are the future, and universities, the bellwether of thought and culture, I would submit that the increasing intolerance and suppression of the time-honored tradition of free expression on our campuses jeopardizes the liberties of every American."
Pence is not the first member of the Trump administration to be hit with a protest as a commencement speaker; Betsy DeVos was also targeted during her speech at Bethune-Cookman University this month when students turned their backs on the education secretary as she spoke.
Social media users tracked the Notre Dame action on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkOutND:
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