Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Notre Dame students plan walkout during Pence speech

Notre Dame students plan walkout during Pence speech

A student activist group at the University of Notre Dame says it plans on staging a walkout of Vice President Pence's commencement speech this Sunday.

Protest organizer Bryan Ricketts tells the South Bend Tribune he expects 50 to 100 fellow graduating students to silently leave just as the vice president starts speaking to almost 2,100 graduating students and their families.

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

"The participation and degree-conferring of VP Pence stand as an endorsement of policies and actions which directly contradict Catholic social teachings and values and target vulnerable members of the University's community", Xitlaly Estrada, a Notre Dame undergraduate, said in a release from We StaND For.

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". Protesters are using the hashtag #WalkOutND to bring awareness to the plans.

In 2015, as Indiana's governor, Pence signed into law a "religious freedom" bill that would have allowed businesses and individuals to refuse services to LGBT people.

That same year, Pence ordered state agencies to halt resettlement for Syrian refugees after terrorist attacks in Europe.

The university says he is the first vice president of the United States to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame.

"We would intervene in any protest only if the ceremony was seriously disrupted or anyone's safety was put at risk", Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne said Wednesday via email.

Other local groups are also expected to protest Pence's visit. Off-campus demonstrations are being planned by We Go High!, South Bend Equality, and the Michiana Alliance for Democracy.

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