Laney College students and supporters marched in protest just before graduation ceremonies were to begin Saturday morning against the school's selection of commencement speaker, University of California president Janet Napolitano.
The protest took place prior to the Oakland community college's graduation ceremony at the Laney College Football Stadium near Fifth Avenue and East 10th Street. Commencement exercises were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
Organizers are protesting Napolitano's stance on immigration, according to Yvette Felarca, spokeswoman for the group Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary.
A statement released by the group said Napolitano, former Homeland Security chief, was responsible for the deportation of two million immigrants. Much of the student body at Laney College is made up of immigrants.
"Inviting Janet Napolitano to speak at Laney College's graduation -- a college made up of a rich, diverse student body that includes many undocumented immigrant students -- is an attack on every Latino and immigrant student and on all students at Laney," said Oscar Sorto, one of about 200 Laney College students set to graduate today.
Prior to today's graduation ceremonies, students signed petitions and the Laney student government passed a unanimous resolution to remove Napolitano as the speaker.
Felarca, an Oakland resident, said that graduates, students and members of the audience joined in on the pre-commencement protest, holding picket signs and passing out flyers and stickers. She said many graduates wore anti-Napolitano stickers on their hats and gowns.
"At a time when the survival of the community college system is at stake, she has no business being Laney's graduation speaker or president of the University of California," Felarca said.