Over 100 members of the senior class at the University of Notre Dame chose to walk out of graduation as a stance against commencement speaker Vice President Mike Pence, The Washington Post reports. When Vice President Pence was introduced before his speech, the protesting students rose from their seats and exited Notre Dame Stadium, knowing that they would not be allowed to come back afterwards.
According to USA Today, student activist group WeStaNDFor organized the protest weeks before graduation, even consulting with a Notre Dame police chief on how to leave the stadium in the most respectful way. The group cited its reasons for protesting as Pence’s negative views of gay rights and his opposition to immigration, among other factors. Given the school’s history with protests against government leaders, Notre Dame officials also announced that they would not stop the students unless they were disrupting the commencement. On WeStaNDFor’s website, directions explaining the walkout read, “Walk away from Pence quietly, in confidence, with your head up high, taking your time. Embrace the moment, maybe even hold hands / lock arms with those joining you.”
Pence coming to Notre Dame for graduation marks his return to Indiana, where he was serving as governor before accepting Donald Trump’s offer to be his running mate. In response to his presence, other human rights groups held protests near the Notre Dame campus, chanting, “Love, not hate, makes America great.”
“We are not protesting their choice of a commencement speaker,” protest organizer April Lidinsky told USA Today. “We are unwelcoming Mike Pence back to Indiana with the idea that nobody knows Pence’s record as well as Hoosiers do.”
Regardless of political beliefs, here's hoping that the rest of Notre Dame's graduation weekend finishes peacefully.