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Columbia University graduate in zip ties rips diploma during ceremony amid Gaza protests

A Columbia University graduate in zip ties rips a diploma on stage at the social work graduation ceremony amid ongoing pro-Palestinian protests at the beleaguered Ivy League school. (Columbia University)
A Columbia University graduate in zip ties rips a diploma on stage at the social work graduation ceremony amid ongoing pro-Palestinian protests at the beleaguered Ivy League school. (Columbia University)
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A Columbia University graduate in zip ties and a keffiyeh at the social work graduation ceremony after weeks of pro-Palestinian protests at the beleaguered Ivy League school.

Video of the protest, which went viral Sunday night after the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine posted the clip on social media, showed the master’s program graduate cross the stage with their hands above their head, before tearing the folder in two and tossing it behind them.

The protester then held up their graduation cap, reportedly decorated with the name of a Palestinian prisoner, Mohammad Natsheh, during the event on Friday evening.

University officials twice this semester summoned the NYPD to arrest pro-Palestinian campus protesters, who were placed in the plastic handcuffs the protester and another couple of graduates wore.

“What significance do our diplomas hold when there are no universities left in Gaza because of our tax dollars and tuition?” the student group wrote on Instagram.

A few pro-Palestinian students fastened silver duct tape over their mouths, while dozens more wore keffiyehs and carried photos and wrote the names of Palestinians imprisoned or killed during Israel’s war in Gaza, a recording of the ceremony showed.

A Columbia University graduate in zip ties is pictured on stage at the social work graduation ceremony. (Columbia University)
A Columbia University graduate in zip ties is pictured on stage at the social work graduation ceremony. (Columbia University)

“Thousands of Columbia graduates and their families have already celebrated at Class Day ceremonies that started on Friday and concluded successfully with virtually no disruption,” a Columbia spokesman said in a statement.

“We join in the excitement of the remaining graduates who will celebrate their incredible achievements at their own Class Days and graduation events the rest of this week and as they start their next chapter.”

One of the social work graduates crossed the stage holding a midsized Israeli flag, according to the recording.

Leo Massey, who said by graduation he believed he was the only Jewish student in his about 14-person program, said he brought the Israeli flag “just in case” pro-Palestinian protests broke out during the ceremony.

“If I don’t bring the Israeli flag, who is going to?” he recalled Monday of his thinking. “After I’ve been there for 2.5 years at the Columbia School of Social Work, I couldn’t think of anyone else speaking out about this.”

The pro-Palestinian graduate who ripped the diploma did not return requests for comment.

Last week, Columbia announced the cancellation of its universitywide commencement, citing security concerns after weeks of campus protests over the war in Gaza that culminated with the takeover of an academic building, Hamilton Hall.

School-level graduation ceremonies are continuing as scheduled but were relocated from main campus to Columbia’s athletic complex several miles north. The largest undergraduate college graduation will be held Tuesday.

There were other protests and disruptions during Columbia graduation ceremonies over the weekend, including a and students who crossed the stage with Palestinian flags, including one that said “divest from genocide.”

A Columbia University graduate in zip ties is pictured on stage at the social work graduation ceremony. (Columbia University)
A keffiyeh-clad graduate holds a “Free Palestine” sign as she accepts her diploma. (Columbia University)

Another graduate  to say: “Acknowledge the Class of 2024 of Gaza and those who will never graduate.”

An estimated 15,000 Columbia students were expected to receive diplomas this semester, including many undergraduates whose high school graduations were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Several seniors who face disciplinary action related to the pro-Palestinian protests are .

Columbia has requested the NYPD remain on campus through May 17, once all school-level ceremonies have ended.

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