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Biden says White supremacy has no place in the US during Charleston speech

President Biden Delivers Remarks Emanuel AME Church In South Carolina As He Campaigns For Re-Election

Photo: Sean Rayford / Getty Images News / Getty Images

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - President Joe Biden on Monday denounced the “poison” of white supremacy in America during a speech at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church.

Biden said such ideology has no place in America, “not today, tomorrow or ever.”

He spoke from the pulpit of Mother Emanuel AME Church, where in 2015 nine Black parishioners were shot to death by the white stranger they had invited to join their Bible study. The Democratic president’s speech followed his blunt remarks last Friday on the eve of the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, in which he excoriated former President Donald Trump for “glorifying” rather than condemning political violence.

“The word of God was pierced by bullets of hate, propelled not just by gunpowder, but by poison,” adding for the overwhelmingly African American audience: “What is that poison?” he said. “White supremacy.” He called views by whites that they are superior to everyone else a “poison that for too long has haunted this nation. This has no place in America, not today, tomorrow or ever.”

It’s a grim way to kick off a presidential campaign, particularly for a man known for his unfailing optimism and belief that American achievements are limitless. But his campaign advisers and aides say it’s necessary to lay out the stakes in unequivocal terms three years after the cultural saturation of Trump’s words and actions while he was president. And it’s an effort to set up the contrast they hope will be paramount to voters in 2024.

“It shows the campaign meeting the moment,” former Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield said. “We’re facing a fundamental threat to our democracy in the form of Donald Trump, and rather than a cookie cutter launch — you know, here are my five policy platforms — he’s speaking to people in a way that connects that and that lays out the stark challenges that are coming down the barrel.”

It was June 17, 2015, when a 21-year-old white man walked into the church and, intending to ignite a race war, shot and killed nine Black parishioners and wounded one more after a Wednesday night Bible study. Biden was vice president when he attended the memorial service in Charleston, where President Barack Obama famously sang “Amazing Grace.”

Biden campaign officials say Mother Emanuel embodies the stakes for the nation now.

“Whether it is white supremacists descending on the historic American city of Charlottesville, the assault on our nation’s capital on January 6 or a white supremacist murdering churchgoers at Mother Emanuel nearly nine years ago,” his campaign states. “Americans are worried about the rise in political violence and determined to stand against it.”

Monday’s visit marked the president’s fourth return to the Palmetto State.

Protesters interrupt Biden’s speech

Just minutes into Biden’s speech, six members of a group that identified itself as Free Palestine Charleston interrupted Biden’s speech at the church to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, a release from that group states.

After speaking about the losses of the parishioners of the church during the 2015 killings, a protestor yelled, “If you really care about the lives lost here, you should honor the lives lost and call for a cease-fire in Palestine.”

Other protesters began chanting “cease fire now.”

A group of protesters interrupted President Joe Biden's speech Monday at Mother Emanuel AME Church to demand a cease-fire in Gaza.

Members of the audience, who had chanted “four more years” as Biden first stepped up to speak, repeated that chant as the protesters were escorted out of the church.

“Free Palestine CHS recognizes the delicate nature of this action given the Mother Emanuel AME massacre less than a decade prior,” the release states in part. “The group consulted members of the community to discuss the best way to respect the church’s mass shooting victims and honor its long history as a place of civil disobedience. We decided it would be best to wait until Pres. Joe Biden began his speech to disrupt, rather than detracting from any of the church’s esteemed Black elders or devaluing a place of worship.”

The protestors were quickly escorted out of the church and the group said its “peaceful act of disruption” included “full compliance with U.S. Secret Service agents.” The disruption and the Marion Square protest that happened at the same time were part of an effort to draw attention “to the horrors our elected officials want us to forget about, despite funding them with our tax dollars.”

“Biden’s refusal to call for a ceasefire, ongoing arms transfers to Israel without Congress approval, and failure to acknowledge that Israel’s actions constitute genocide as outlined in the U.N. Genocide Convention (a treaty that the United States is a signatory to) demonstrates that he is more than complicit in genocide; he is an active participant,” the release states.

Once the protesters were out of the church, Biden told the crowd he understand their passion and said he has been “quietly working with the Israeli government” to get them to reduce and “significantly get out of Gaza.”

Biden’s visit draws mixed reactions

Charleston Republican Party Chairman Andrew Boucher said there are several questions he would like answered during the president’s visit.

“I hope he comes and tries to explain how there’re 6 million illegal border crossings since he got elected,” Boucher said. “Hope he comes and tries to explain how the average mortgage payment on a medium-income home has doubled since he got elected. I think he has a lot to answer for.”

Lowcountry Conservative Club Chairman Maurice Washington had other expectations and hopes for the president’s visit.

“I hope his message is one of civility. It’s one of unity, Washington said. “A message that will unite the country. We’re in a bad place right now, as opposed to more rhetoric of the division.”

Charleston Democratic Party Chairman Sam Skardon also shared his hopes about Monday’s visit.

“In 2020, Jim Clyburn’s endorsement was huge for President Biden and propelled him to huge victory here and then the Democratic nomination,” Skardon said. “We hope to keep that position for years to come. So, seeing strong engagement, seeing lots of enthusiasm for this visit, and for this primary is all a part of that.”

The administration shared why they believe the president chose Mother Emanuel as the location for the event.

Biden wants Americans to grasp the extraordinary stakes of this year’s presidential election, as he sees them. As part of that effort, he’s revisiting some of the nation’s worst traumas to highlight what can happen when hate is allowed to fester.

Monday’s event comes after a blunt speech by the Democratic president on the eve of the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, in which he excoriated former President Donald Trump for “glorifying” rather than condemning political violence.

“Mother Emanuel has a very rich history, but unfortunately, it also has a tragic history of mixing the progress of our nation with unfortunately violence of our nation,” Skardon said. “And so that is, unfortunately, a reality of this campaign.”

Trump, who faces 91 criminal charges stemming from his efforts to overturn his loss to Biden and three other felony cases, argues that Biden and other top Democrats are themselves seeking to undermine democracy by using the legal system to thwart the campaign of Biden’s chief rival.

South Carolina is the first official Democratic nominating contest where Biden is looking to flex his political muscle this year, and it’s where his turnaround in 2020 began on his way to the White House.

Biden is expected to meet with the families of the victims of the church shooting, and it’s in these moments when his aides believe he’s most effective.

Copyright 2024 WCSC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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