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Columbia University graduate rips up diploma on stage to protest Institute's role in genocide against Gaza

May 14, 2024 at 2:22 pm

Alumni of Columbia law school carry out silent pro-Palestinian protest with keffiyehs and banners, calling for ceasefire during their graduation ceremony in New York, United States on May 13, 2024 [by Fatih Akta/Anadolu via Getty Images]

A graduate of Columbia University ripped up her diploma during a graduation ceremony to protest the Institute’s complicity in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

Tarsis Salome, a graduate of Columbia’s School of Social Work, tore her diploma to shreds while on stage with zip-tied hands and a keffiyeh as the audience cheered her on at Friday’s commencement ceremony.

In a video shared by Columbia’s Students for Justice in Palestine, footage also captured other graduates wearing zip-tie handcuffs and displaying pro-Palestinian signs as a symbolic gesture linked to the recent arrests of numerous protesters from Columbia’s campus in recent weeks.

Moreover, several students proudly displayed ‘Free Palestine’ signs as they received their diplomas, while another student carried a flag with the slogan ‘Divest Now’, urging the University to sever ties economically and academically from Israel.

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine shared a clip of the ceremony on Instagram, captioned: ‘The students are reminding us all of Palestine at every single graduation.’

Additionally, the Instagram account featured a photo of a student’s graduation cap inscribed with the words, ‘Acknowledge the Class of 2024 of Gaza and those who will never graduate.’

This protest followed the University’s cancellation of its main graduation ceremony due to heightened security concerns following the installation of a tent encampment by some pro-Palestinian students.

The student movement began at Columbia University in the US, organised by the Students for Justice in Palestine movement, whose members set up their tents in the University’s courtyard on 17 April. This led to the disruption of classes in all the University’s departments. Despite the protests being peaceful, the University president called the police to arrest the demonstrators, causing other students and faculty members to join the protestors’ encampment.

Riot police were sent on to campuses and students and faculty members were slammed to the ground and arrested.

Columbia President, Minouche Shafik, has denied all requests to divest from Israel.

New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, has previously declared that New York “unequivocally stands with Israel” and, in a statement last week, said: “I am horrified and disgusted with the anti-Semitism being spewed at and around the Columbia University campus.” Highlighting examples of such “hate speech”, he said it included “groups of students are chanting ‘We don’t want no Zionists here’.”

Israel and its allies have conflated criticism of the apartheid state with anti-Jewish hatred; however the recent protests have provided further proof that the two are not linked. Many of the students who have taken part in the protests are Jews who have said Israel’s actions in Gaza are not in their name, highlighting that they stand against the Zionist regime and its action against Palestinians.

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