Pence cites Trump's 'leadership' in commencement address

Notre Dame seniors will stage a walkout to protest Vice President Mike Pence's commencement speech at the IN university on Sunday.

"They are going to be in the audience in one of the most important moments of my life with someone targeting them for who they are", he said, adding that he was going to follow the Catholic value of standing up for marginalized people.

In a statement released by the university's student activist coalition, titled We StaND For, a spokesman for the group said: "Notre Dame students will stage a walkout during the commencement exercises in solidarity with members of the Notre Dame community affected by the policies advocated by US Vice President Mike Pence". Protesters are using the hashtag #WalkOutND to bring attention to the protest on social media.

According to a Facebook event for the walkout, students are encouraged to stand up as soon as Pence begins talking, walk away from him "quietly but deliberately" toward the nearest exit, and join a group outside where they will have a "celebration and tassel turn".

"All of these policies have marginalised our vulnerable sisters and brothers for their religion, skin colour, or sexual orientation". The Washington Times wrote, "Members of the "The Fighting Irish's' class of 2017 are frightened by Mr. Pence and have started a '#NotMyCommencementSpeaker' campaign against his May 21 address".

Organizer Bryan Ricketts said that "it's a very legitimate thing for people to be scared" of Pence.

"Some students are undocumented and some parents are driving to see their kid graduate because they can't get on a plane", Ricketts told ThinkProgress.

The university is not particularly anxious about the protest.

Six presidents from both sides of the aisle have given commencement speeches at Notre Dame, including Barack Obama in 2009 and George W. Bush in 2001. The university's decision to have Pence speak has caused controversy elsewhere - more than 1,700 Notre Dame alumni signed a letter expressing disappointment that Pence was appointed as commencement speaker.

Other local groups are also expected to protest Pence's visit.

Protests are also planned at Notre Dame, where some students intend to walk out of his speech.

  • Salvatore Jensen