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Biden tells graduating students 'I hear' Gaza protests

May 19, 2024

Speaking with graduating students, US President Joe Biden said he supports their "peaceful nonviolent protest" over the ongoing "humanitarian crisis in Gaza."

Joe Biden gives Morehouse commencement
Joe Biden's response to Israeli offensive has sparked protests at colleges across the United StatesImage: Alex Brandon/AP/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden told the graduating class at Morehouse College that he was listening to their voices amid ongoing protests over the conflict in Gaza.

"I support peaceful nonviolent protest," he told students, some who wore kaffiyeh scarves around their shoulders on top of their black graduation robes.

"Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them."

"It's a humanitarian crisis in Gaza," Biden said at the higher education facility in Atlanta, Georgia. "That's why I've called for an immediate cease-fire."

Biden made the visit after weeks of protests and demonstrations at a series of higher education facilities in the US, typically criticizing American support for Israel and the military campaign in Gaza.

"I know it angers and frustrates many of you including in my family," he said.

Israel: War Cabinet member demands plan for Gaza

Independent Palestinian state 'only solution,' says Biden

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the former university of the civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., Biden said he was pushing for a regional peace deal "to get a two-state solution, the only solution."

The 81-year-old president, who is seeking a second term in office in November, also said he was pushing for a "lasting, durable peace" in the wider Middle East.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is visiting Saudi Arabia and Israel this weekend, seeking a cease-fire as well as a normalization deal between the two countries.

Will US student protests about Gaza subside?

Student anger over Biden invitation

Ahead of the president's address, some Morehouse alumni circulated an online letter calling on Morehouse President David Thomas to rescind Biden's invitation to speak at the ceremony.

The letter claimed Biden's policies on the conflict amounted to support of "genocide" in Gaza and was out of step with the pacifism expressed by Martin Luther King Jr.

Though one student stood with his back to Biden, the president's speech took place with little interruption. 

jsi/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)