19 May 2024, 12:02

Biden risks Gaza protests at Martin Luther King Jr.'s college

ATLANTA, May 19, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - US President Joe Biden speaks Sunday at
the former university of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr, in a bid
to woo Black voters that risks being overshadowed by protests against
Israel's war in Gaza.

Biden's graduation speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, will be
his most direct engagement with students since demonstrations over the
conflict roiled campuses across the United States.

Students at Morehouse, a historically Black university, have called on the
college administration to cancel the speech over Biden's support for Israel,
which has caused strong opposition in a US presidential election year.

"I think it will be a moving commencement address. I think it will meet the
moment," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a
briefing on Friday.

Asked about reports that the college principal would shut down the ceremony
if there was major disruption, Jean-Pierre said: "He will respect the
peaceful protesters. It is up to Morehouse on how to manage that and move

A senior White House official recently met students and faculty members at
Morehouse to discuss objections to Biden delivering the address, NBC News

While Biden's choice of Martin Luther King Jr's alma mater emphasizes the
heroism of the civil rights hero, protesters have pointed out that King was
also an anti-war activist who opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

Biden initially stayed silent on the Gaza protests but later said that "order
must prevail" after police broke up several university protest encampments
around the US.

- Biden poll worries -

Biden's problems with voters over Gaza mirrors wider issues he has with Black
and younger voters, two groups that helped him beat Republican Donald Trump
in the 2020 election.

He will need to keep those strands in his coalition to have a hope of
preventing Trump from making a sensational comeback to the White House
despite a chaotic first term and multiple criminal indictments.

The Morehouse College visit caps days of events in which Biden is reaching
out to Black voters, all staged around the 70th anniversary of a 1954 US
Supreme Court decision that ended racial school segregation.

A New York Times/Siena poll last week showed that in addition to trailing
Trump in several key battleground states, Biden is also losing ground with
African Americans.

Trump is winning more than 20 percent of Black voters in the poll -- which
would be the highest level of Black support for a Republican presidential
candidate since the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964, The New York Times

Several other polls have also shown Biden's support lagging among Black

Biden accused Trump and his "extreme" supporters of "going after diversity,
equity and inclusion all across America" in a speech on Friday at the
National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on

On Thursday in the Oval Office, Biden welcomed key figures and relatives of
plaintiffs in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that proved a
milestone for the US civil rights movement.

Later Sunday, Biden will then travel to Detroit where he will address the
NAACP, the nation's top civil rights group.


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