Joe Biden campaign speech interrupted by pro-Gaza ceasefire protesters

US President was speaking at a South Carolina church where a white supremacist shot and killed nine people in 2015

Biden interrupted by 'ceasefire now' chants during campaign event

Biden interrupted by 'ceasefire now' chants during campaign event
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A small group of protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza interrupted what had been billed as a key campaign speech for US President Joe Biden on Monday.

Mr Biden's address at a South Carolina church that suffered a racist mass shooting in which nine people were killed in 2015 was aimed at gathering support from the black community.

The community will play a crucial role in determining whether he wins a second term in the White House.

Early in the address, a woman in one of the pews heckled him.

“If you really care about the lives lost here, you should honour the lives lost and call for a ceasefire in Palestine,” she yelled, while several others shouted “ceasefire now”.

Mr Biden said he understood the protesters' passion.

“I've been quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza,” he said.

Those attending then chanted “four more years,” in support of Mr Biden, as security officials removed the protesters.

The visit comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Middle East to try to prevent the Israel-Gaza war, now in its fourth month, from spreading beyond the coastal enclave.

On Monday, Israel killed a top Hezbollah commander in a strike on southern Lebanon, drawing concerns that the group, a Hamas ally, could retaliate.

Mr Biden's visit to the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston also comes as a rematch of the 2020 election between him and Donald Trump is expected in November, when issues of race, equality and justice are expected to take centre stage.

“The word of God was pierced by bullets of hate, propelled not just by gunpowder, but by poison,” Mr Biden said of the 2015 massacre. “What is that poison? White supremacy.”

He said that white supremacy has ripped the nation apart and “has no place in America; not today, tomorrow or ever.”

Black Americans are a crucial voting bloc for Mr Biden, who was vice president to Barack Obama, the first black president in US history.

If black voters are motivated to go to the polls, it bodes well for Democrats, as was the case in 2020. But if they stay home, Republicans historically have made gains.

Black Americans have historically leaned towards the Democrats but Mr Biden is losing support among the communities, a recent New York Times/Siena College poll found.

The stakes are high, and his bid for re-election could be decided by how he performs in a handful of key battleground states, several of which have sizeable populations of black Americans.

Low turnout could spell disaster for his campaign.

Monday's visit to the church is a continuation of a two-part campaign tour that began on Friday, when he spoke on the eve of the third anniversary of the Capitol riots.

Near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, he condemned Mr Trump's role in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and condemned his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections.

He cast Mr Trump, who is leading Republican candidates, as an aspiring dictator and a threat to American democracy.

At the time of the church massacre on June 17, 2015, Mr Biden was vice president. He attended the funeral, where Mr Obama sang Amazing Grace.

Mr Biden, who at the time was mourning the death of his son Beau from brain cancer, returned two days later and attended Sunday services to pray with the congregation.

He said he decided to run for the White House in 2020 after seeing white supremacist groups marching with flaming torches and chanting anti-Semitic slogans in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Updated: March 06, 2024, 11:33 AM