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Protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza interrupted Biden's campaign speech

President Biden was giving a campaign speech at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., when protesters interrupted with calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Mandel Ngan
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden was giving a campaign speech at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., when protesters interrupted with calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

President Biden was just getting rolling in a campaign speech at Mother Emanuel AME — a Black church where nine people where killed by a white supremacist shooter in 2015 — when a group of protesters interrupted his remarks.

"If you really care about the lives lost here, you should honor the lives and also call for a cease-fire in Palestine," a woman shouted, followed by chants of "cease-fire now!"

It was the latest — and loudest — criticism of Biden's support for Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, particularly from young voters and people of color.

The issue has followed him as the civilian death toll in Gaza has climbed. Protesters have demonstrated outside of the White House and closed-door fundraisers that Biden has held across the country. One protester spoke out during a private Minneapolis event in November.

Protesters call for a ceasefire in Gaza Strip as President Biden speaks at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C.
Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Protesters call for a cease-fire in Gaza Strip as President Biden speaks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

But the interruption during his Charleston event — a speech aimed at boosting waning support from Black voters — was one of the most public demonstration to date of how the Middle East conflict is dividing Democratic voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The protesters were eventually drowned out by chants of "four more years!" from other supporters in the church. As the protesters were escorted out, Biden acknowledged their position.

"I understand their passion and I've been quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza, using all that I can to do that," Biden said.

President Biden used most of his campaign speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., to make the case that he had delivered on issues important to Black voters.
Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
President Biden used most of his campaign speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., to make the case that he had delivered on issues important to Black voters.

Biden was linking the issues of racism and political violence in his speech

Biden's speech focused on the issues of racism and political violence, linking them to his likely opponent, former President Donald Trump.

"The truth is under assault in America," Biden said. "As a consequence, so is our freedom, our democracy, our very country — because without truth there's no light."

Biden compared Trump and his denial of the results of the 2020 election to Confederates who could not accept they had lost the Civil War.

"We're living in an era of a second 'Lost Cause,'" Biden said.

Biden is seeking to to energize Black voters ahead of his reelection bid. He acknowledged that support from Black voters was key to his 2020 victory, though polling shows it has waned.

He checked through a series of promises he had kept to Black voters, ranging from key appointments like Vice President Harris and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to his administration's investments in historically Black colleges.

"You all made this possible," Biden said, while acknowledging there was more work to do on issues like police reform, gun violence prevention and economic equality.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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