Graduates from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law turned their backs and yelled as New York City Mayor Eric Adams delivered the school’s 2023 commencement address.
The heckling followed a protest over proposed budget cuts to the school by Adams and criticisms over his response to the death of Jordan Neely. Students interrupted, yelled, and booed during Adams’ remarks, which occurred during a Friday graduation ceremony at the Colden Auditorium of Queens College.
“For 22 years of my life, I wore a bulletproof vest and protected the children and families of this city as a police officer. So I know what it is. I know what it takes to hold this city together,” Adams said during his speech. “We have a lot of challenges, a lot of things that it needs discipline. And just as you see these graduates here, I know what it is to protest.”
RIGHT NOW. At the CUNY Law school graduation. Graduates turn their backs on NYC Mayor Eric Adams. A protest against his terror against Black & brown communities, public education, libraries, migrants, health & safety. His support for state violence. Wow. pic.twitter.com/hC9npXJwnh
— Scott Hechinger 🆓 (@ScottHech) May 12, 2023
Other attendees in the crowd appeared to have a more positive response to Adams’ words, at times clapping and cheering.
“These are exciting times, and we know we can move this city forward as we did with the issues around immigration, issues around public safety, issues around how we build a better city for all,” Adams said, as students continued to yell.
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His speech followed news that CUNY might lose around $150 million in city funding, according to Comptroller Brad Lander, who said that the cuts would have a deleterious effect on the school. “That means a CUNY that cannot show up for its students,” he said.
It is not the first time that Adams, a former cop, has faced criticism over his commencement appearances. Last year, students attempted to ban Adams from speaking at Pace University, to no avail.
One student shouted the name “Jordan” during the ceremony, a likely reference to Neely, who died after being placed in a chokehold on a subway train. Neely was restrained after witnesses say he embarked on an aggressive rant and began screaming that he did not care if he went to jail.
Adams said that it was irresponsible to classify what happened as “murder” until more investigation had followed.
“I don’t think that’s very responsible at the time where we are still investigating the situation. Let’s let the DA conduct his investigation with the law enforcement officials. To really interfere with that is not the right thing to do and I’m going to be responsible and allow them to do their job and allow them to determine exactly what happened here,” he said.