Protesters Against Joe Biden Chant 'Liar' Outside Morehouse Commencement

protesters against joe biden chant 'liar' outside morehouse commencement

President Joe Biden speaks onstage during the 140th Morehouse College Commencement Ceremony at Morehouse College on May 19, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Blocks away from Morehouse College in Atlanta where President Joe Biden delivered a graduation commencement address on Sunday, dozens of protestors gathered, chanting, "Biden, Biden, you're a liar, we demand a ceasefire."

Morehouse College, a historically Black college for men and the alma mater of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., has been the site of several protests since last month following the announcement of Biden as the commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree. Student protesters called on the administration to rescind Biden's invitation over his handling of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Despite the protests, Morehouse President David Thomas maintained Biden as the speaker and stated that if disruptive protests took over the ceremony he would "cease the ceremonies on the spot."

The pro-Palestinian protests come after more than seven months of Israeli military incursions in Gaza, which have sparked a humanitarian crisis. Israel's military operations were in response to Hamas' October 7, 2023, attack on Israel, which killed 1,200 people and resulted in more than 200 hostages being taken. Over 1.4 million Palestinians have been displaced and over 34,000 have been killed, according to the Associated Press.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment via email on Sunday.

A video of protestors chanting, "Biden, Biden, you're a liar, we demand a ceasefire," was posted on X, formerly Twitter, by Morehouse College professor Andrew Douglas. In his caption he wrote, "today, on Malcolm X's birthday, we're in the streets." Malcolm X was a prominent Black figure during the civil rights movement.

Other photos and videos of the protests posted on X show many demonstrators wearing keffiyehs and holding Palestinian flags. Signs in the crowd read "Free Palestine," "Ceasefire Now," "Stop Arming Israel," and "Just Say 'No' to Genocide Joe." A video posted on X by journalist Seynabou Ramu shows passers honking in support of the dozens of pro-Palestinian protestors marching.

Fox 5 Atlanta reporter Brittany Edney posted a video on X showing the crowd chanting, "Israel is a terrorist state." In another video posted by Edney, protestors call out, "We want justice, you say how? Stop running Gaza down." Atlanta Police Department members were on bikes blocking entry points to the campus.

Before the graduating students ushered into their seats, Associate Provost Mel Foster told the crowd of parents, family, and friends, that "Although we respect everyone's right to free speech, Morehouse College has issued guidelines to ensure we are in line with the law," according to an X post by AP reporter Matt Brown. Several students and faculty members were wearing keffiyeh scarves at the ceremony.

Ahead of Biden's speech, Valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher took the stage with a Palestinian flag both glued to his graduation cap and as a pin attached to his stole.

In his speech, Fletcher referred to the social justice legacy of alum King Jr., saying that "It's only right for the class of 2024 to utilize any platform provided to stand in solidarity with peace and justice. The Israel-Gaza conflict has plagued the people of its region, for generations." His comments come just days after the 76 anniversaries of Israeli's Independence Day and Nakba Day for Palestinians.

The valedictorian ended his speech by telling the audience, "It is my stance as a Morehouse man, nay as a human being to call for an immediate and the permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip."

Biden clapped, and Fletcher received a standing ovation from the crowd, including from the president, who shook his hand following the speech.

Later, Morehouse alumni stood to welcome President Biden to the podium, while all members of the graduating class remained in their seats. About seven students out of the nearly 500-member class turned their backs to face away from the president.

Biden's speech addressed the ongoing conflict, condemning Hamas' attack and saying "Innocent Palestinians caught in the middle of all of this...[are] in desperate need of water, food, and medicine. It's a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that's why I've called for an immediate ceasefire."

His comments received applause from the audience. "Bring the hostages home," he said.

When Biden was presented with an honorary degree, several students walked out, reported by The New York Times live blog. Thirty-eight Morehouse faculty members had previously voted not to award Biden an honorary degree, while 50 voted in favor.

Biden's commencement speech comes at a time when the presidential race is extremely tight. A recent New York Times/Siena poll showed the presumptive Republican nominee and former President Donald Trump polling higher in five key swing states, including Georgia. Biden's polling in those states is within the margin of error.

With less than six months from election day and President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are neck and neck among the key demographics represented at Morehouse.

A May USA Today/Suffolk University poll shows Biden gaining among young and Black voters. Specifically, among young voters, defined as those under 35 years old, Biden leads Trump 34 percent to 25 percent. Among Black voters, Biden edges Trump 64 percent to 12 percent.

Updated 5/19/2024 at 1:35 pm ET: Included number of students and source

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