(DETROIT) — Pro-Palestinian protesters had a tense standoff with riot police outside U.S. President Joe Biden’s campaign event near Detroit on Thursday afternoon.
The standoff lasted more than 30 minutes as dozens of demonstrators stood within inches of local law enforcement officers. Teams of riot police wearing helmets and wielding sticks were brought in for reinforcement.
Some organizers repeatedly told the crowd to lock arms and push toward the police line, forcing officers to take a few steps back.
The demonstration remained peaceful and the riot police walked away about 20 minutes after they had arrived on scene. The president’s motorcade did not pass by the protesters when he departed.
Biden, who is seeking a second four-year term in office, has faced fierce criticism in recent months from Arab and Muslim Americans over his response to the latest outbreak of war between Israel, a close U.S. ally, and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. Michigan could be critical to Biden’s chances of getting reelected this year as it is home to the largest number of Arab Americans of any battleground state.
On Thursday, the protesters were chanting “Genocide Joe” and “Hey Joe, hear our demand, you have blood on your hands” as the president held a campaign event at a United Auto Workers union facility near Michigan’s largest city. They were calling for people to vote “uncommitted” in the state’s Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 27 and to vote against Biden in the country’s presidential election on Nov. 5.
Amir Naddal, a 34-year-old Palestinian American who works in the tech industry, said he voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election but “absolutely will not” in 2024.
“We need to send a clear message to Joe, and to this administration, that this is unacceptable,” Naddal told ABC News.
Salma Hamamy, a 22-year-old Palestinian American who studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said the Biden administration’s policies on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war prompted her to take part in Thursday’s demonstration.
“Joe Biden brought me out here today. He thinks that he is welcomed in the one of the largest Arab American communities in the United States,” Hamamy told ABC News. “We are here to tell him that he is not going to be our primary choice at all for when we vote in November for the elections, so long as he has blood on his hands.”
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