‘Uncommitted’ organizers will join campus protesters in Michigan over Gaza

By Thomson Reuters Apr 25, 2024 | 1:48 PM

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Organizers behind the “uncommitted” political movement against President Joe Biden’s staunch support for Israel’s war against Hamas will travel to the University of Michigan’s campus on Thursday to join students protesting the war.

Student protests in the U.S. over the war in Gaza have intensified and expanded over the past week after police first arrested students at Columbia, with so-called Gaza solidarity encampments established at colleges, including Yale, and New York University. Police have been called in to several campuses to arrest hundreds of student demonstrators.

Uncommitted organizers will travel to the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, they told Reuters, bringing together a political movement that’s disrupted Biden events and amassed hundreds of thousands of votes in Democratic primaries and a student movement that’s drawn students and faculty of various backgrounds.

Biden won Michigan by less than a 3% margin in 2020.

Democrats have become increasingly uneasy over the U.S. support for Israel as the death toll and destruction climb in Gaza. A growing revolt inside the Democratic base signifies the challenge Biden faces in bringing together the coalition he needs to defeat Republican frontrunner and former President Donald Trump.

“President Biden is choosing to put his hands over his ears and ignore the hundreds of thousands of people who have already come out against the war at the ballot box,” said Abbas Alawieh, a prominent “Uncommitted” organizer, who is going to Ann Arbor with Layla Elabed, another Michigan organizer.

“Signing into law more money for Israel is sending a clear message to uncommitted voters, young voters that he doesn’t care to engage seriously with our demands to end this war,” he said, referring to the $26 billion in new aid Biden recently approved.

Alawieh said the uncommitted movement has not been coordinating with student groups so far. “We have an electoral focus, but we certainly see the demands of student protesters, who are calling for peace,” he said.

On campuses where protests have broken out, students have issued calls for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, an end to U.S. military assistance for Israel, university divestment from arms suppliers and other companies profiting from the war, and amnesty for students and faculty members who have been disciplined or fired for protesting.

Biden told reporters on Monday that he condemned both “antisemitic protests” and “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.” Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt has said the president “shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East. He’s working tirelessly to that end.”

Trump called the campus protest situation “a mess” as he walked into his criminal trial in New York.

The uncommitted movement amassed sizable vote totals in Michigan, Minnesota and Hawaii primaries and had won 25 delegates as of the beginning of April. They are preparing to target the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August, where Biden is expected to be nominated.

Polls show Biden and Trump running neck-and-neck ahead of their Nov. 5 election rematch nationally. Biden’s 2020 victory was due to narrow wins in key swing states like Michigan.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Aurora Ellis)