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University of Florida graduates speak out after being shoved off stage at graduation

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Some University of Florida graduates were shoved off stage while celebrating their commencement Saturday.

African American students celebrated their fraternities and sororities by doing a cultural stroll dance across the stage, and were immediately rushed off.

“It’s sad to see that moment was taken away from me,” said Nafeesah Attah, a graduate who was pushed off stage and nearly lost her graduation cap. “It was just a simple, stroll dance move that was taken way out of context and way too far.”

“Having our opportunity to celebrate our culture and our heritage by doing a simple stroll move I think for three seconds, covering the same ground, wouldn’t be an issue,” said Oliver Telusma, another student who was rushed off stage. “I was picked up, turned around, and backed up off the stage.”

On a day that should be remembered for years of hard work and dedication, these students say they felt dishonored.

Social media put the university under fire, and president Kent Fuchs did apologize at a later commencement.

“We inappropriately, physically rushed a number of students across the stage in one of our commencements,” Fuchs said. “I want to personally apologize for us doing that, on behalf of myself and the University of Florida.”

These students say that will not replace the special moment in their lives that was taken from them.

They pointed out that others were also escorted off - but in a gentler manner.

“Having to have my little sister see me in that light and be criminalized like that on stage, especially at a graduation from a top 10 university is not something that I would ever imagine,” Attah said. “It was a joyous moment, and we definitely felt criminalized and dehumanized on the stage.”

“It’s embarrassing. My family, my friends, my fraternity brothers all came to celebrate with me,” Telusma said.

NAFEESAH: “It was a joyous moment, and we definitely felt criminalized and dehumanized on the stage.”

CBS 4 reached out to the University of Florida to comment on the graduation, and they did not respond.

President Fuchs tweeted saying this practice will be stopped in future ceremonies, and the university will make sure students know the university is proud of their achievements.

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