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 US due to their sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity, and that these are not values that the Catholic university should be celebrating.
USA Today reported that "When Notre Dame announced that Pence would be the 2017 graduation speaker in March, the student organization WeStaNDFor began brainstorming ways to take a stand". "However, many graduates here have been directly targeted by other policies - for example, those students and their families who are undocumented and who risk deportation to celebrate this milestone in their lives", Ricketts said.
In addition to Pence's record as governor, the protesters said they wanted to voice objections to Trump's threat to civil liberties and policies such as his attempts to ban travellers from some Muslim-majority countries. "We know all too well how his policies endangered or caused direct harm to public education, health care, women's rights, the environment, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants and refugees, reproductive rights, local infrastructure, the economy of our state, and more".
Meanwhile, Pence's press secretary issued a statement on Twitter, downplaying the significance of the walkout.
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Graduating seniors at the University of Notre Dame, including some sporting rainbow flags draped around them or on their caps, walked out of their own commencement to protest the discriminatory views guest speaker Mike Pence has espoused, according to ABC News.
He claimed Notre Dame was "a vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time, sadly, when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across America". The school chose Pence, Indiana's former governor, to take his place.
A student activist group at Notre Dame said last Friday that it planned on staging a walkout of Pence's speech. The petition said Trump did not share the university's values.
In photos and videos that have gone viral, students in graduation caps and robes are seen exiting the Notre Dame Stadium in a quiet manner, where 2,081 students were to receive their degrees.