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Protesters Confront Biden on Gaza War Support, Chanting “Cease-Fire Now” in South Carolina

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Demonstrators demanding a cease-fire in the U.S.-backed Israeli war on the Gaza Strip were drowned out by supporters of President Joe Biden chanting “four more years” in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday.

A few audience members disrupted Biden—who is seeking reelection this year—as he addressed a crowd at Mother Emanuel AME Church, where a white supremacist gunman killed nine Black worshippers in 2015.

“If you really care about the lives lost here, then you should honor the lives lost and call for a cease-fire in Palestine,” shouted one protester, who was then joined by others in chanting, “Cease-fire now!”

As the cease-fire supporters were escorted out of the church, much louder chants of “four more years” broke out.

Biden has affirmed his “unwavering” support as Israel has waged war on Gaza since the Hamas-led attack of October 7. He asked Congress for a $14.3 billion package on top of the $3.8 billion in military aid that the U.S. gives Israel annually and his administration twice bypassed congressional oversight to approve recent arms sales to the country.

Appearing caught off-guard by Monday’s disruption, Biden eventually quieted the crowd with raised hands and repeated “thank you’s.

“Look folks,” the president said, “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. But I understand the passion.”

In response to footage of the event, IfNotNow, an American Jewish group organizing to end U.S. support for Israel’s apartheid system, said: “Biden was shaken. He’s starting to understand the reality: His war on Gaza is horrifically unpopular, and people are fed up.”

Noting that the disruption in South Carolina came after New York City demonstrators on Monday morning shut down the Holland Tunnel and three major Manhattan bridges, IfNotNow added: “Young people are furious. We will not allow Biden and the U.S. to continue to support the starvation and slaughter of Gaza.”

Also welcoming the protest in Charleston, Naftali Ehrenkranz of Justice Democrats said: “Hell yeah. Biden and every American politician who continues to support arming Israel as it kills more and more Palestinians in Gaza every day do not deserve a moment of peace in their public lives. Cease-fire now.”

Some Biden backers criticized the protesters for “targeting” the president on “hallowed ground,” provoking responses that highlighted recent actions by Israeli forces in Gaza—from killing thousands of kids to bombing places of worship—as well as the history of this church, which was co-founded by Denmark Vesey, who was executed for planning a slave revolt.

“To dilute the history of Black churches as if they aren’t the epicenter of civil rights organizing is more than a little harmful. It’s downright disingenuous,” argued writer and audio producer B.A. Parker. “And if young folk are protesting in a church as a call to action, then maybe they should be heard instead of ‘collected.'”

Writer Todd Dillard declared on social media, “I need Democrats to understand that when a protestor shouts ‘20,000 dead Palestinians; their blood is on your hands’ responding with ‘FOUR MORE YEARS FOUR MORE YEARS FOUR MORE YEARS’ is the grimmest, darkest thing imaginable.”

As of Monday, Israeli bombings and raids in Gaza have killed over 23,000 Palestinians and injured nearly 59,000 more. A growing number of legal scholars and world leaders have accused Israel of genocide, including at the International Court of Justice.

“The Democrats rushing to Biden’s defense should realize that chanting ‘four more years’ in response to a protest objecting to the U.S. government’s support of a genocide in Gaza is not doing anything to improve the president’s standing as his poll numbers continue to drop,” saidIn These Times senior editor Miles Kampf-Lassin.

As The New York Times reported Monday:

Voters broadly disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of the war, and it has become a major political vulnerability for him.

The protest on Monday, though brief, was a stark reminder that Mr. Biden will not be able to escape the subject as he seeks reelection. Protesters calling for a cease-fire interrupted at least two of his speeches late last year, one in Minnesota and one in Illinois. More than 500 appointees and employees in the federal government signed a letter calling for a cease-fire in November, staff members held a vigil outside the White House in December, and twoofficials have resigned in protest of his policies on Israel and Gaza.

“I imagine there will be even larger protests like this at Biden’s campaign events in swing states like Michigan and Georgia,” predicted Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid.

Palestinian American political analyst Yousef Munayyer agreed, saying that this is “probably gonna be the norm for every public event on the campaign trail.”

Biden is under mounting pressure from not only the public but also progressives in Congress, with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) warning in a Friday interview with Common Dreams that calling for a cease-fire in Gaza “is going to be a dividing issue for the Democratic Party for the future, like the Iraq War was… And I think the window is rapidly closing to be on the right side of history.”

Referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Center for International Policy’s Matt Duss told MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes that “Biden has essentially outsourced decision-making for an extremely consequential war… to one of the most dangerous, right-wing authoritarian leaders in the world—and I do use that term advisedly.”

“The outrage at President Biden’s handling of this war and his continuing unconditional support for this massacre that we’ve been seeing over the past three months is really off the charts,” Duss added, warning that the issue could impact the November presidential election.

This article was originally published in Common Dreams.

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