California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

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The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and other institutions in the state conducted graduation ceremonies on Friday without the disruption of protests over Israel’s war on Gaza, with proceedings largely undisturbed.

The United States, Israel’s key ally, has seen months of pro-Palestinian protests ranging from marches in Washington and vigils near the White House to the blocking of bridges and roads near train stations and airports in multiple cities, along with encampments on many college campuses.

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UCLA commencement ceremonies were “poignant and simply beautiful,” the school said. UCLA’s commencement celebrations had over 60 events scheduled from Friday to Sunday.

The Los Angeles Times reported a number of graduates wore keffiyeh scarves, which have become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians, at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The newspaper also said dozens of graduates peacefully walked out of the Luskin ceremony but overall a festive atmosphere prevailed throughout for tens of thousands of graduates and visitors.

Commencement ceremonies were also scheduled at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Irvine.

University protests in recent months have seen occasional violence while police have made arrests on campuses to clear encampments. Pro-Palestinian activists encamped at UCLA were violently attacked by a mob weeks ago.

Student protesters have demanded an end to the war, a halt to U.S. support for Israel and divestment by their schools from companies with ties to Israel.

More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s eight-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave.

The war has also displaced nearly the entire 2.3 million population in Gaza, caused widespread hunger there and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 , killing 1,200 people and abducting some 250 others, according to Israeli tallies.

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