FAIRFAX, Va. (7News) — About a dozen George Mason University students walked out of their graduation ceremony Thursday morning during Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's commencement speech.
At least 13 students left EagleBank Arena and didn't walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. According to the walkout organizer, Democrats at Mason, the students were protesting Youngkin delivering the commencement address and it was a demonstration against the governor's "divisive policies."
Of the graduates who did stay, some in the audience held signs reading "We will not debate humanity" and "Mason demands action."
Dozens of students were also holding pride flags. Despite the protest, most students remained in their seats and listened along.
This comes after an online petition gained over 8,000 signatures to oppose Youngkin from speaking at the ceremony.
Alaina Ruffin, who started the online document, wrote "as a Patriot and prospective alumna of George Mason University, I and my peers do not want the memories of our graduation day to be tainted by an individual who has harmed and continues to harm the people he serves."
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Nearly 11,000 students received their diplomas Thursday as part of the largest graduating class in GMU's history.
In his speech, Youngkin noted the added challenges this graduating class faced because of the pandemic.