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Notre Dame students plan protest against commencement speaker Pence

Protesters wait to greet Mike Pence at Notre Dame // WSBT 22

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (WSBT) - Thousands of students will be graduating from the University of Notre Dame this weekend. But not everyone will stick around to the end.

Some students plan on leaving Sunday's ceremony early to protest commencement speaker Vice President Mike Pence.

Notre Dame has a history of controversial speakers.

It's tradition for Notre Dame to invite a new president to come speak at commencement. In 2009, President Barack Obama spoke and there were protests. This year, it's the invitation of the vice president that's sparking controversy.

"Both my parents went to Notre Dame, so I've been coming here since I was a little girl. Actually, I was like three months old when I first came to campus. So, it's pretty bizarre to be kind of completing that stage of my life and moving on, but I'm really excited,” said Notre Dame senior Mary Hermann.

But for some, the selection of Pence as their commencement speaker changes the meaning of their day.

"In my case, I'm a graduate student. I've been working for, like, the past decade of my life and it's very disappointing to have somebody like Mike Pence invited to this,” said Luis Miranda.

Students like Miranda are now planning a protest. They plan to walk out of graduation when Vice President Pence steps up to speak.

The students have varying reasons, including his stance on LGBTQ rights, health care and immigration.

For Miranda, it's about his family, some of whom are undocumented.

"They're living with this constant fear on a day-to-day basis. They've worked so hard so that I could make it here. Then I make it here and the person we're giving an honorary degree to and who is going to address our class is somebody who has been targeting them. I could do no more justice to my family than to stand up and to walk out,” he said.

The organizers estimate between 50 and 100 students will walk out. Other are choosing to focus on themselves.

"I'm kind of just blocking it out and just focusing on this milestone in my life. I'm not letting that kind of get to me. I'm just appreciating this moment with family and friends, and just selfishly making it about me,” said Hermann.

The students have been in contact with Notre Dame Police to ensure the walk-out goes smoothly.

A university spokesperson says the school will only intervene in a protest if the ceremony is seriously disrupted or anyone's safety is at risk.

Dozens of people were arrested when President Obama spoke. Many were protesting his stance on abortion. Those arrested included former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, a Catholic priest, and a woman known as "Jane Doe."

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