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Morehouse College’s graduation could be disrupted if there are disruptions during President Biden’s speech, the school’s president said.


Morehouse College President David A. Thomas told CNN that the school “will not ask police to remove individuals wearing zip ties.”


Morehouse College President David A. Thomas said Thursday he would shut down commencement ceremonies “on site” rather than allow police to remove student demonstrators in zip ties during the graduation speech of President Joe Biden.

Biden’s commencement speech scheduled for Sunday at one of the nation’s most historically black colleges comes as school officials across the country have called on law enforcement to clear pro-Palestinian encampments and repress the demonstrations of recent weeks.

“What we will not allow is disruptive behavior that prevents the ceremony or services from taking place in a way that those in attendance can participate in and enjoy,” Thomas told CNN in an interview Thursday .

“So, for example, the president’s prolonged shouting while he speaks. I have also made the decision that we will not ask the police to remove individuals wearing zip ties either. If I have a choice, I will cease on-site ceremonies if we reach this position.

Biden’s presence on the Atlanta campus also comes as he seeks to persuade young voters to send him to the White House for another term, even as many have expressed frustration with his administration’s continued support to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

Thomas said the college would not allow “hate speech,” meaning “calls for violence against another group or individual.” He said Morehouse is a place that “can contain the tensions” that have come to a boil on campuses across the country.

“I would rather be the first president whose debut failed than say you are less important than the ceremonies of this institution,” Thomas told CNN.

“I thought about it from the perspective of how Morehouse should present itself as an institution. And we should never put the ego of the institution above our values. And one of our values ​​is to see the humanity in everyone,” he added.

Thomas said Morehouse faculty members voted earlier Thursday to award Biden an honorary degree. He highlighted Biden’s decades as a public servant as well as a national and international leader whose body of work “deserves an honorary degree from Morehouse College.”

“We need a place in this country that can contain the tensions that threaten to divide us,” Thomas said. “We look around us as some of the most venerable institutions of higher learning have canceled admission, canceled valedictorian speakers because they spoke out and exercised their right to freedom of speech. »

Thomas said the university would allow quiet, non-disruptive protests, even students turning their chairs or turning their backs on Biden — which he said would embarrass him.

“As long as you don’t behave in a way that deprives others of the opportunity to participate and consume and celebrate this moment,” said Thomas, who has led Morehouse since 2018.

“Silent protests. You want to walk across the stage wearing clothing that identifies your moral connection to either side of this conflict because we have Jewish students here too, you can do that.

CNN has contacted the White House for comment.

Protests have erupted on college campuses across the country, with students demanding that universities divest from Israel.

The opening ceremonies take place against a backdrop of police barricades and increased law enforcement presence, metal detectors and other security measures.

Biden has faced some protests during his own speeches and campaign events. A Biden speech on abortion rights at George Mason University in Virginia earlier this year was marred by more than a dozen protests against his administration’s support for Israel.

Biden is also expected to deliver a commencement speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point on May 25.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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News Source : amp.cnn.com

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