1 arrested, protesters pepper sprayed at University of Chicago graduation

One person was arrested amid a protest Saturday against the war in Gaza at the University of Chicago as the South Side school was holding graduation ceremonies.

Around 11 a.m., a “small number of protesters acted violently” while trying to access a closed area near 59th Street and University Avenue, school officials said in a statement.

One person, who the university said was not affiliated with the school, was arrested on allegations of battery, the statement said.

The officials did not release additional details.

Amid the ceremonies, several students walked out in protest of the war “without incident,” school officials said.

“The University is fundamentally committed to upholding the rights of students to express a wide range of views,” school spokesman Gerald McSwiggan said, who said the ceremonies went on uninterrupted.

The protests came a day after faculty at the university and 16 City Council members claimed the school was circumventing its own disciplinary process to withhold degrees from some pro-Palestinian student protesters after an ad hoc chair was abruptly added to the disciplinary committee to oversee their cases.

A student protester, who asked not to be named, said some students and families walked out of convocation — a ceremony where university administrators speak to students before they attend smaller diploma ceremonies.

At a subsequent rally, police set up barricades and used pepper spray against about a dozen people during a confrontation with protesters when police tried to grab people from the crowd, the student said.

The student said the person arrested was the parent of a graduate. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Students walked out because the school is withholding diplomas and because there is no graduation in Gaza,” the student said, referencing the closure of schools in Gaza since the war began.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after a surprise attack on Oct. 7 by Hamas militants that left more than 1,200 people, mostly Israeli civilians, dead. The militants also took several hundred people hostage.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Associated Press.

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