June 16, 2024

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

US President Joe Biden has spoken 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 forward.”

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

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.

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