Dozens walk out before Jerry Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke in protest

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(The Hill) — Dozens of students walked out of the Duke University commencement ceremony ahead of Jerry Seinfeld’s scheduled speech Sunday, apparently in protest of the Jewish comedian’s support for Israel, according to news reports and videos circulated on social media.

As Seinfeld received his honorary degree, before beginning his commencement speech, the graduating students rose from their seats and walked out, waving Palestinian flags and chanting, “Free, free Palestine.” Some in the audience joined in support, but many audience members booed at the protesters and chanted “Jerry” repeatedly.

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After the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, Seinfeld publicly voiced his support for Israel and has spoken out against antisemitism. He also traveled to Tel Aviv in December to meet with family members of people being held hostage by Hamas.

In the commencement speech, Seinfeld avoided confronting the protesters, instead delivering a lighthearted speech with jokes and life advice for the graduating students.

FILE – Jerry Seinfeld is shown before the men’s singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships between Casper Ruud, of Norway, and Carlos Alcaraz, of Spain, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in New York. Seinfeld’s upcoming Netflix comedy will be featured during this weekend’s IndyCar race at Long Beach as rookie Linus Lundqvist will drive a car painted to look like a Pop-Tart in recognition of the movie “Unfrosted.”(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

The Duke walkout is just the latest example of protests on college campuses in response to the ongoing war in Gaza.

Students on campuses throughout the country have expressed frustration with institutional support for Israel, with many calling for their schools to divest from groups that back Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Small pro-Palestinian protests popped up sporadically Saturday as colleges and universities from North Carolina to California held commencement ceremonies, including dozens of graduating students at Virginia Commonwealth University who walked out on an address by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

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At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a small group of demonstrators staged what appeared to be a silent protest during commencement at Camp Randall Stadium. At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, pro-Palestinian demonstrators splattered red paint on the steps of a building hours ahead of the school’s commencement ceremony and chanted on campus while students wearing light blue graduation gowns posed for photos, the News & Observer reported. At the University of Texas, Austin, a student held up a Palestinian flag during a commencement ceremony and refused to leave the stage briefly before being escorted away by security.

And at the University of California, Berkeley, a small group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators began waving flags and chanting during commencement and were escorted to the back of the stadium, where they were joined by others, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. There were no major counterprotests, but some attendees voiced frustration.

“I feel like they’re ruining it for those of us who paid for tickets and came to show our pride for our graduates,” said Annie Ramos, whose daughter is a student. “There’s a time and a place, and this is not it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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