More than 100 students graduating from Notre Dame walked out of their graduation ceremony over the weekend in protest of commencement speaker Vice President Mike Pence.
— WNDU (@WNDU) May 21, 2017
The students, part of the student activist group We StaND For, announced their plans to peacefully walk out during Pence’s address beforehand:
“During his time as governor of the state of Indiana and now as a Vice-President, Pence has targeted the civil rights protections of members of LBGT+ community, rejected the Syrian refugee resettlement program, supported an 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.”
Students participating in the walkout left quietly as Pence began his speech.
Pence’s speech consisted of discussing Trump’s policies since taking office, specifically his “religious freedom” executive order, which could potentially lead to setbacks in LGBTQ equality.
Notre Dame valedictorian C.J. Pine, who spoke before Pence, called for religious freedom in his speech, stating “Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims.”
Initially, President Trump was going to be asked to give the speech, but after thousands of students signed a petition asking the university not to invite the new president, Notre Dame decided to invite Pence instead. Over 1,000 Notre Dame alumni penned a letter to express their disappointment in the decision to invite Pence as commencement speaker.
Notre Dame is the largest Catholic university in the country, with 85% of it’s students identifying as Catholic, and is located in South Bend, Indiana, the state that Pence served as governor for 4 years.
— Summer Ratcliff (@SummerRatcliff) May 21, 2017