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Biden tries to reconnect with Black voters, faces silent protest at Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater in Atlanta

During a commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black university in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. President Joe Biden encountered a silent protest from a small group of graduates opposing his stance on the Gaza conflict. Morehouse College is the alma mater of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Joe Biden says, ‘I know it breaks your heart. It breaks mine as well’ as he referred to Gaza war as a complicated humanitarian crisis.(AFP)

Several graduates turned their backs on Biden, some waving Palestinian flags, while one held up a fist. Others donned keffiyeh scarves over their gowns, signifying solidarity with nationwide campus protests against Israel’s military actions in Gaza following the Hamas attacks on October 7.

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Biden addressed the protest directly, emphasizing his support for peaceful demonstrations. “I support peaceful, non-violent protest. Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them,” he said, dressed in the school’s maroon and black colors. This speech marked Biden’s most direct engagement with students amid the ongoing Gaza protests, which have posed significant political challenges ahead of his anticipated election rematch with Donald Trump.

Discussing the Gaza conflict, Biden acknowledged the complexity and emotional impact of the situation. “This is one of the hardest, most complicated problems in the world. There’s nothing easy about it,” he remarked, noting the deep frustration and heartbreak it causes.

Though he didn’t provide specifics, reports suggest First Lady Jill Biden had previously urged the president to address the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza. Despite calls from some Morehouse students to cancel his speech due to the conflict, the event proceeded without interruption.

Biden described the crisis in Gaza as a “humanitarian crisis” and reiterated his commitment to seeking an “immediate ceasefire to stop the fighting, bring the hostages home.” He stressed the need for a “lasting, durable peace” in the Middle East, advocating for an independent Palestinian state as the “only solution.”

“I know it angers and frustrates many of you, including my family, but most of all, I know it breaks your heart. It breaks mine as well.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was in Saudi Arabia and Israel over the weekend, working on securing a ceasefire and fostering normalization between the two nations.

Biden’s speech coincided with Morehouse College’s valedictorian, DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher, also calling for a ceasefire, emphasizing the heavy casualties suffered by both sides since October 7. “This is what we’re up against — extremist forces aligned against the meaning and message of Morehouse,” said Biden.

Morehouse President David Thomas commended Biden’s willingness to confront tough issues, noting, “You spoke to the hard issues confronting our nation and the world at this moment.”

The speech was part of Biden’s broader effort to reconnect with Black voters amid slipping support, highlighted by recent polls.

Biden highlighted his administration’s historic appointments, including Vice President Kamala Harris and the first Black female Supreme Court justice. He warned of the heightened threat posed by a potential second term for Trump, framing his outreach efforts as crucial to preventing Trump’s return to power.

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