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Biden addresses U.S. campus protests as he speaks to Morehouse grads

ATLANTA — President Joe Biden on Sunday addressed U.S. student protests over the Israel-Hamas war, telling graduates of historically Black Morehouse College that he heard their voices and that scenes from the conflict in Gaza break his heart, too.

“I support peaceful nonviolent protest,” he told students at the all-male college, some of whom wore Palestinian scarves known as kaffiyehs around their shoulders on top of their black graduation gowns. “Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them.”

The speech — and one later Sunday in Detroit — is part of a burst of outreach to Black constituents by the Democratic president, whose support among these voters has softened since their strong backing helped put him in the Oval Office.

Biden spent much of the approximately 30-minute speech focused on the problems at home. He condemned Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants and noted that the class of 2024 entered college during the COVID-19 pandemic and following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Biden said it was natural for them, and others, to wonder whether the democracy “you hear about actually works for you.”

“If Black men are being killed in the street, what is democracy?” he asked. “The trail of broken promises that still leave Black communities behind, what is democracy? If you have to be 10 times better than anyone else to get a fair shot.”

Protests over the war have roiled America’s college campuses. Columbia University canceled its main commencement ceremony. At Morehouse, the announcement that Biden would be the commencement speaker drew some backlash among the faculty and those who oppose the president’s handling of the war.

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