Top Biden Officials met with Arab American and Muslim leaders in Dearborn, Michigan on Thursday, in an attempt to reconcile with community activists who say they will not support President Joe Biden in the upcoming election because of his Gaza policy.
Protestors gathered outside to demand an instant ceasefire in Gaza as the meeting ensued.
According to The Hill, the meeting was part of the administration’s ongoing outreach efforts to Arab American and Muslim communities.
“[W]e want to hear directly from them. We want to hear their concerns. We believe it’s important for — for these leaders to be — to be able to speak directly to officials in the White House,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
This meeting follows backlash from Arab American communities in response to Biden’s vocal support for Israel’s war in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel. Arab and Muslim leaders in the Detroit area say they will not vote for Biden in the 2024 election unless he calls for a cease-fire in Gaza and restricts military aid to Israel.
CNN reported that on Wednesday, more than 30 Michigan officials pledged to vote “uncommitted in their state’s Democratic primary on February 27, as part of the “Listen to Michigan” campaign.
Michigan is home to one of the nation’s largest populations of Arab and Muslim Americans, and it would be detrimental for Biden in November for these leaders to withdraw support in a battleground state that was crucial to his 2020 win.
Among the leaders present in the meeting was Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, a democrat. He said “the mood was real at the meeting,” reported the Detroit News, “No one was there for jokes. Any other meeting, I would have brought sweets and food from the community. None of that was present.”
“We made our positions very clear, very firm. We did our duty. We’ve expressed directly to those who have the ability to influence decision making about what’s unfolding in Gaza. Now it’s in the president’s court,” Hammoud said.
Meanwhile, protestors gathered outside to express their frustration.”Democrats, don’t you see?” they chanted. “You support a killing spree!”
At least two local officials declined to attend the meeting, according to the Detroit News. Dearborn Heights’ Mayor Bill Bazzi said he declined the invitation because it’s “unconscionable” to engage in talks with continued violence.
“I cannot in good conscience sit down today to discuss the dire humanitarian crisis with President Biden’s officials, on the same day that conversations continue to take place in Washington to further fund the distribution of yet more armaments that will be used against civilians,” Bazzi said in a statement.
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