Duke students walk out of Jerry Seinfeld commencement amid wave of graduation anti-war protests – NBC Los Angeles

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld was met with a wave of boos Sunday when students at Duke University in North Carolina walked out just before his commencement speech, the latest in a wave of anti-war protests that took place at college graduations across the country this weekend.

Seinfeld, 70, was not only delivering the speech at the school’s football stadium but was also receiving an honorary degree from the school, where his son is currently enrolled and his daughter previously graduated. As the comedian was being introduced, boos could be heard on the official commencement livestream.

At least one person in a mortar hat could be seen walking in front of the camera before the stream switched to a different side view. Videos on social media showed a group of students with Palestinian flags walking down an aisle on the stadium field.

Other students and some attendees in the bleachers also stood up from their seats and began walking out of the stadium.

It’s unclear whether the booing was intended for Seinfeld or the student protest, or potentially both, but chants of “Jerry” were heard shortly after. Seinfeld was later able to deliver his speech uninterrupted.

Seinfeld, who is Jewish, has been vocally supportive of Israel and visited the country following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that sparked the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. More than 1,200 people, including civilians and soldiers, were killed in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 and more than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza in Israel’s subsequent counteroffensive in the Palestinian enclave.

Official say 132 hostages remain captive in Gaza, including at least five American citizens. At least 37 of the hostages are believed to be dead, Israeli authorities have said.

Last month a wave of anti-war demonstrations began to take root on college campuses after students at Columbia University set up an encampment on their university’s lawn. The organizers cited prior university protests as their inspiration, including demonstrations against the Vietnam War and apartheid in South Africa.

Students demanded their universities divest from companies that either profit from war or from the occupation of Palestinian territories and cut ties to Israel, with many also asking their schools to call for an immediate cease-fire.

A crackdown by Columbia’s university administration in the first week of the protest resulted in 108 arrests on campus. News of the arrests drew national attention and soon inspired solidarity protests all over the U.S. and at some international universities as well.

Some universities also used police force to end the encampments while others negotiated a peaceful end to the demonstrations with student leaders.

Columbia officials called police back to campus to disperse the protest after students took over Hamilton Hall, a building that had also been taken by student protesters in the 1968 demonstration that inspired organizers. The university later canceled its commencement ceremony.

This weekend, graduations across the country were marked by their own anti-war demonstrations.

At the Virginia Commonwealth University ceremony held Saturday, students walked out of a commencement address being delivered by state Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Though the school said disruptions would not be tolerated, the VCU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine organized the silent walkout in protest of Youngkin’s policies as well as his role in the arrests of pro-Palestinian student protesters in April.

Protests also erupted at two different ceremonies at the University of California, Berkeley, on Friday and Saturday. During Friday’s law school graduation, students removed their gowns to reveal white shirts that read “UC Divest.” The school addressed the protest in a statement that said graduation was able to continue regardless.

The next day, chants of “Free Palestine” erupted as the student speaker attempted to deliver her address at a different ceremony. A group of about 20 students stood up and waved Palestinian flags as well, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

About 300 others stood up and moved to a different area of the venue, according to the Chronicle, as counterprotesters chanted “Kick them out.”

Over the past week, a new wave of concern for civilian life in Gaza has taken hold as Israeli forces took over the Palestinian-controlled area of the Rafah border crossing shared with Egypt. Airstrikes have frequently taken place in Rafah, killing many over the course of months, but the Israel Defense Forces had not deployed troops there prior to last week.

President Joe Biden has warned against an intensified Israeli operation in the border city, where more than 1 million have taken refuge. Cease-fire negotiations also took place last week after Hamas announced it would agree to a framework for a hostage exchange, but Israeli officials said that proposal was unacceptable.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his government have insisted that a full assault on Rafah is necessary to eliminate Hamas, describing it as the militant group’s final stronghold in the Palestinian enclave. He accused Hamas of trying to sabotage the Rafah operations with its statement that it agreed to a cease-fire.

Civilians were again told to evacuate areas of Rafah on Saturday, and the IDF published a map showing that sectors of the city were now considered a “dangerous combat zone.” The military warned civilians that it would “act with extreme force against terrorist organizations in your area of ​​residence.”

This article first appeared on NBCNews.com. Read more from NBC News here:

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