Morehouse College to ‘cease ceremonies on the spot’ if protesters interrupt Biden’s graduation speech


As President Joe Biden is expected to give the commencement address to Morehouse College in Atlanta, the president of the school is warning that he would not shy away from ending the graduation if protesters interrupt the president. 

Morehouse College President David A. Thomas said he is prepared to “cease the ceremonies on the spot” if protests are too disruptive to Biden’s speech. He said he would rather halt the ceremony than bring in a police force. 

FILE – President Joe Biden speaks in support of changing the Senate filibuster rules that have stalled voting rights legislation, at Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Jan. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

“What we won’t allow is disruptive behavior that prevents the ceremony or services from proceeding in a manner that those in attendance can partake and enjoy,” Thomas told CNN.

“So, for example, prolonged shouting down of the president as he speaks,” he continued. “I have also made a decision that we will also not ask police to take individuals out of commencement in zip ties. If faced with the choice, I will cease the ceremonies on the spot if we were to reach that position.”

Thomas said he will not allow hate speech of any kind. 

“I would rather be the first president to have a failed commencement than to say you are less important than the ceremonies of this institution,” Thomas said. “I thought about it from the vantage point of how should Morehouse show up as an institution. And we should never put the ego of the institution above our values. And one of our values is to see the humanity in all.” 

During a Thursday press briefing, White House Office of Public Engagement Director Steve Benjamin, who met with Morehouse College students last week to discuss concerns regarding the president’s speech, to reiterate Biden’s support of free speech and the right to protest.

“The right to free speech extends, even those who protest,” Benjamin said. “As long as they’re peaceful protests, as long as they don’t disrupt the amazing moment it is for the graduates, we’ll consider it a success.”

Benjamin visited Morehouse last week to assure students Biden’s speech would not be campaign-related and would instead focus on the accomplishments and futures of the graduates.

Thomas said those who would like to participate in “silent protest” are welcome to do so. 

“Silent protests. You want to walk across the stage in a piece of garment that identifies your moral connection to either side of this conflict because we also have Jewish students here, you can do that,” Thomas said.

He said he would allow people to turn their chairs to Biden’s back while speaking, which could embarrass the president.

“As long as you don’t conduct yourselves in a way that deprives others from being able to participate, consume, and celebrate this moment,” Thomas said.

Then-President Barack Obama gave the Morehouse College commencement speech in 2013. Biden is set to be awarded an honorary degree. Thomas said Biden’s years of public service, including 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, make him deserving.


“We need someplace in this country that can hold the tensions that threaten to divide us,” Thomas said. “We look around some of the most venerable institutions of higher education have canceled commencement, canceled valedictorian speakers because of their having spoken out and exercised their rights to free speech.”

The White House did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment on Thomas’s statements. 

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