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Morehouse defends students, faculty who turned their backs during Biden speech: ‘We are proud’

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Morehouse College has closed its doors to students and faculty after at least seven graduates and one faculty member sat with their backs to President Biden during his commencement address at the Atlanta school early Sunday morning. is praised.

Morehouse said that “peaceful assembly” is at the core of the school’s “social justice tradition,” and that the school’s administration “supports the right to peacefully protest and to express one’s views openly.” I fully support and defend it.”

Considering its most famous alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Morehouse said, “Moments of organized and peaceful action have taken place on our campuses while the world watches to continue important conversations.” It’s fitting that this should happen.”

“I’m proud of the strong members of the Class of 2024 for coming together in silent protest and demonstrating intentionality in strategy, communication and coordination as a 412-member force,” Morehouse said.

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A faculty member raises his fist as President Biden speaks at the graduation ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta on May 19, 2024. (Christian Monterrosa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The launch comes after weeks of nationwide campus protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, which has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Ministry of Health.

Biden told graduates of the historic Black Morehouse College that he had heard the voices of the protesters and was heartbroken by what he saw in Gaza.

“I support peaceful, non-violent protests,” he told students at the boys’ school. Some students wore Palestinian scarves, known as keffiyeh, wrapped around their shoulders over their black graduation gowns. “I’m sure I can hear you. I promise I’ll hear you.”

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Biden said there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying, “That’s why I am taking immediate action to end the fighting and bring home the hostages still being held after Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7. We called for a ceasefire.” Near the end of his commencement address, he spoke about the Middle East, during which he also reflected on American democracy and his own role in defending it.

The announcement that Biden would be Morehouse College’s commencement speaker sparked some backlash among faculty and those opposed to the president’s handling of the war. Some Morehouse alumni circulated an online letter condemning administrators for inviting Biden and asked for signatures to pressure Morehouse President David Thomas to rescind it.

Biden speaking at Morehouse College

President Biden speaks at the graduation ceremony of Morehouse College in Atlanta, May 19, 2024. (Christian Monterrosa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In the end, there was no chaos at Morehouse’s opening ceremony, but the applause for Biden was largely muted. At least seven graduates and one faculty member sat with their backs to each other during Biden’s speech, and another student also wore a Palestinian flag. Demonstrators near the ceremony held placards saying “Liberate Palestine,” “Save our children” and “ceasefire now,” as police on bicycles looked on.

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Scholars unfurled the Congolese flag on the stage behind the president during his speech. The African country is mired in civil war, and many racial justice advocates are calling for more attention to the conflict and American help to end the violence.

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