US Vice President Mike Pence got a frosty welcome at a graduation ceremony in his home state of Indiana on Sunday, when dozens of students walked out in protest against what they called his discriminatory policies.
The protesters, among thousands of graduates, faculty and guests gathered in the University of Notre Dame’s football stadium, stood up when the Republican began his commencement speech and streamed out of the ceremony, to the jeers of some of those who remained.
VIDEO: Notre Dame graduates walk out as Vice President Mike Pence began his address at commencement ceremony. https://t.co/gXW79j8qaM— The Associated Press (@AP) May 21, 2017
Pence criticised the protest as a threat to free speech.
“This University is a vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time sadly when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across America,” Pence said, in reference to a series of protests in recent months opposing appearances by conservative politicians and commentators.
“Notre Dame is a campus where deliberation is welcomed, where opposing views are debated and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all to hear,” he said.
At Notre Dame,
mike_pence</a> attacks campus 'political correctness' <a href="https://t.co/9GHh8YS6dv">https://t.co/9GHh8YS6dv</a> <a href="https://t.co/Qv2KrgO7Ut">pic.twitter.com/Qv2KrgO7Ut</a></p>— POLITICO (politico) May 22, 2017
Protesters at Notre Dame said they wanted to object to Pence’s role as vice president as well as his record as the former governor of Indiana, saying his policies hurt immigrants as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Several of the students carried messages of protest on their traditional graduation caps. One of them displayed an inverted U.S. flag, a sign of protest popularized during the Vietnam War era, and the words “Are we great again yet?,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.