Dozens of students walked out of Notre Dame University's commencement exercise on Sunday to protest a speech by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who warned graduates of the prestigious Catholic school against suppressing free speech.
Thousands of students had signed a petition asking the university not to invite President Trump, and so the school instead invited former IN governor, Vice President Pence to speak.
The protest action was planned ahead of the ceremony, with activist group We Stand For saying Pence's policies as vice president and as former IN governor targeted marginalized people on the basis of their religion, skin color or sexual orientation.
A co-organizer of the protest, Luis Miranda, told CNN that he and his fellow students believe Pence's policies target vulnerable and marginalized populations in the U.S. due to their sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity, and that these are not values that the Catholic university should be celebrating. More than 1,700 alumni signed a letter stating their disappointment with the school's selection of Pence as commencement speaker.
During Pence's speech to the remaining students at the Catholic university, he promoted Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia earlier in the day denouncing religious persecution.
Notre Dame students walk out of the commencement ceremony as Vice President Mike Pence is introduced at Notre Dame Stadium on May 21, 2017, in South Bend, Indiana.
"It's so unnecessary. This is a good man who is coming here for graduation", she said.
The walk-out took place shortly after Pence took to the podium, with about 100 students standing up and filing out, to loud booing from the audience.
The vice president decried "safe zones" and "speech codes" as "destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge, and they are wholly outside the American tradition".
"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", Pence said.
An English and Liberal Studies student, Cassandra Dimaro, told The Telegraph the silent walkout was a show of solidarity "for those of us impacted by the policies of the Trump administration as well as the rhetoric the Trump administration has used".
When asked to respond to the reasons the students gave for protesting Mr. Pence, Mr. Lotter said, "I'm not going to get into their reasoning".
First, progressive groups citing Pope Francis, who is anti-abortion and pro-traditional marriage, in opposition to Mr. Pence's presence at Notre Dame is rich. Also, the university is in IN. where he served as governor before being tapped as Trump's VP.