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8 Jan, 2024 23:32

Gaza protesters disrupt Biden campaign event

Activists demanding a ceasefire heckled the US president at a historically black church
Gaza protesters disrupt Biden campaign event

Pro-Palestinian activists interrupted US President Joe Biden’s campaign speech at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday.

Emanuel AME is a historically black church, where a pastor and eight parishioners were killed in a racially motivated attack in 2015, when Biden was vice president. As one of the main themes of Biden’s 2024 campaign, Democrats have chosen to accuse his main challenger, former US President Donald Trump, of being a racist and a danger to democracy.

As Biden spoke, however, a group of protesters rose up from one of the back pews to heckle him about not caring for Palestinian lives in Gaza. They chanted “Ceasefire now!” as security escorted them away. After about a minute, Democrats attending the campaign event started a chant of “Four more years!” to drown them out.

When the noise subsided, Biden said he had been “quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza.”

Israel launched a major air and ground offensive against the Palestinian enclave after the October 7 incursion by Hamas militants, which claimed the lives of around 1,200 Israelis. According to the local Hamas-run authorities, over 22,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since.

The US has provided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with full diplomatic support, as well as money and weapons, while publicly urging restraint. Israel has rejected calls for a truce with Hamas, vowing to “eradicate” the group. Israeli officials have further argued that a comprehensive ceasefire would only help Hamas recuperate and stage further attacks.

The White House policy has caused significant backlash among Muslim Americans. Pro-Palestinian activists protested on Monday outside the church as well. 

The Biden administration has boasted of being “the most diverse” ever, including many Arab Americans and Muslims. Some of them have complained of a climate of fear and a “culture of silence” about Palestinian suffering, while several government officials have publicly resigned in protest.

Biden is said to be counting on the African American vote to propel him to victory in November. His struggling 2020 candidacy was boosted by a victory in the South Carolina primary, reportedly delivered by Congressman James Clyburn, an influential House Democrat. In return, Clyburn demanded “a black woman” as Biden’s running mate, which led to Kamala Harris getting the job.