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Protesters line entrance to campus

Madeline Buckley | Sunday, May 17, 2009

Protests against the University’s invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at the graduation ceremony Sunday are mounting as Commencement is now only a day away.

About 50 people lined the entrance to campus at Notre Dame Ave. and Angela Blvd. Saturday with posters showing graphic images to protest Obama’s abortion policy and University President Fr. John Jenkins’ invitation to the president.

Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) arrested 10 protesters for trespassing on campus Saturday afternoon at the entrance to campus, according to a South Bend Tribune report.

About 18 people, including politician Alan Keyes, were arrested Friday for trespassing after they entered campus to pray the Rosary, the report said.

Commencement weekend events, including the Commencement Mass which took place Saturday afternoon, continued as scheduled throughout the day Friday and Saturday.

Controversy over the issue erupted after the University and the White House announced on March 20 that Obama will speak at Notre Dame’s Commencement ceremony and receive an honorary degree.

Many pro-life groups and religious leaders, including South Bend-Fort Wayne Bishop John D’Arcy, have denounced the University’s invitation to Obama because of the president’s pro-choice stance on abortion.

Participants Saturday’s protest said the demonstration was not organized by any specific group or organization.

Several students, offended by the graphic images of fetuses surrounding campus, stood in the midst of the protest with signs in support of Jenkins’ decision to invite Obama to deliver the Commencement address.

Graduate student Ashley Baldridge said her poster, which said “Pro Notre Dame’s Choice,” was meant to put the focus back on the students graduating on Sunday.

“I want to put out positive, supportive message instead of these gory images,” Baldridge said. “Our graduation shouldn’t be a soapbox.”

Seniors Matt Degnan and Sawyer Negro stood at Notre Dame Ave. and Angela Blvd. Friday with about 10 other students and faculty members in shirts designed by Degnan that said “Obama? Fine by me” and “Please don’t ruin my graduation. Support ’09 Commencement.”

Degnan said the gathering, which was organized by word of mouth, was not a protest or counter-protest, but rather a “showing of support” for the University.

“This is not about being pro-choice or pro-life,” he said. “Graduation should be a time where the graduates are honored for their hard work.”

Degnan designed the shirts in April and has had about 200 orders for the shirts, according to an April 29 Observer report.

Negro said the shirts are meant as a respectful way to show support for Notre Dame.

“We’re not going for shocking people,” he said. “Wearing the shirts on campus is better than flying graphic images over campus.”