Pro-Palestinian protestors Nasir Raza (right), Scott Menor (center) and Jose Rizal (right), call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hama war outside Mesa Community College’s 2024 graduation ceremony, in which First Lady Jill Biden was the featured speaker, on May 11, 2024 (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr./The Mesa Legend)

Pro-Palestinian protestors gather outside MCC graduation commencement

A small group of pro-Palestinian protestors gathered outside the Desert Financial Arena on Saturday to protest First Lady Jill Biden’s attendance at the 2024 Mesa Community College graduation commencement ceremony.

A group of five protestors gathered near the sidewalk on Veteran’s Way, holding a Palestinian flag, and signs that read “Stop his genocide,” and “don’t bomb refugees.”

“Jill Biden and Joe Biden are complicit in the genocide,” said Scott Menor, one of the protestors.

Some supporters passed out watermelon flavored candy, a fruit that has become a symbol of unity amongst pro-Palestinian voices across the United States.

Jose Rizal held the Palestinian flag alongside his fellow demonstrators opposing the First Lady’s visit, peacefully making objections known at the ceremony.

“We should speak up against it and show that we don’t support it,” said Rizal.

Rizal believed that the right to peacefully protest across the nation was critical to making pro-Palestiniane demands heard by college administrators.

“I notice that a lot of universities have very similar demands. They’re a little different sometimes too, but the biggest thing is divesting from (the State of) Israel, disclosing where their student funds are going and allowing the people to protest. Those are the biggest things we want to see,” said Rizal.

As campus encampments began to quiet as college spring semesters also drew to a close, Rizal believed that protests would stay active, noting that he had participated in protests at the monthly First Friday festival event in downtown Phoenix.

“People should continue to support this cause any way they can, big or small. It doesn’t matter and stay dedicated. We shouldn’t allow people with big sticks to intimidate us to give up because that’s not how things work,” said Rizal on plans for future protests.

For Suzanne Dispasito of anti-war activist organizations Phoenix Anti-War Coalition and Code Pink, the reason for calling on Israel to stop combat was simple: “they’re killing children in Gaza,” said Dispasito.

Dispasito along with another member of the groups passed out the watermelon candy to curious graduates and family pouring onto all sides of the arena in the heart of Arizona State University, the site of many on-campus protests.

Nasir Raza stood alongside the other demonstrators holding a sign that called for the end of a genocide in Gaza.

Raza said he could no longer bear to remain silent.

“There’s a genocide going on, civilians are dying, it’s become much worse now with Rafa, the most one of the most densest places on Earth being bombed,” said Raza, who disagreed with the U.S. supporting the State of Israel with weapons during the war.

“It’s very important for us to protest here because America is the one who has Israel’s back, and in many ways we are complicit. I don’t want to be complicit. So, I’m here to protest,” said Raza.

  • Rey Covarrubias Jr.

    Rey Covarrubias Jr. is the Managing Editor for the Mesa Legend. As a lifelong Arizonan, he has found his passion in learning and sharing the diverse cultural and natural wonders of the state. Rey started writing for the Mesa Legend in 2022.

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