Protesting Biden, Gaza Supporters Warn, ‘Don’t Blame Us’ if You Lose


About 100 people turned out on Tuesday at the University of Michigan to urge Democrats to reject President Biden in the state’s primary election, a political gathering that illustrated both the passion and the limits of the effort to pressure him into calling for Israel to stop waging war in Gaza.

The rally, held by a group called Listen to Michigan that is urging voters to cast their ballots for “Uncommitted” against Mr. Biden in next week’s primary, called for Democrats to reject the president in the primary.

The speakers in Ann Arbor and a crowd made up mostly of students displayed energy, pronouncing themselves livid at Mr. Biden’s stance on Israel, but when the event began there were so few attendees that they could, and did, all stand in a circle and hold hands.

Former Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, a progressive Democrat who was at the gathering, said it would be Mr. Biden’s fault if his policies toward Israel and Gaza led him to lose the general election to former President Donald J. Trump, the likely Republican nominee. Mr. Levin nodded to Michigan’s large population of Arab Americans, whose frustration with Mr. Biden along with discontent among young voters and progressives has raised questions about the president’s standing in the state, a critical presidential battleground.

“Don’t blame us,” said Mr. Levin, who along with Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has become one of the most prominent supporters of the Uncommitted movement. “He needs votes from Arab Americans, from people of color, from progressive Jews and from young people. He only won Michigan by 150,000 votes in 2020, so politically we have a moment where we can raise our voices.”

Layla Elabed, the campaign manager for Listen to Michigan and Ms. Tlaib’s sister, said the goal for the campaign was to earn “at least 20,000 votes” for Uncommitted.

“That is the number that we will need to flex our political power,” she said.

“We will raise our voices at the ballot box,” said Abbas Alawieh, a former congressional aide who is one of the group’s organizers. “Vote Uncommitted, because a vote for Uncommitted is a vote for cease-fire. A vote for Uncommitted is a vote against war.”

The Uncommitted push has support from 39 state and local elected officials in Michigan, according to a tally by The Detroit News. Ms. Tlaib over the weekend became the first member of Michigan’s Democratic congressional delegation to break from Mr. Biden and call for an Uncommitted vote.

The Biden campaign began dispatching surrogates to the state this week to urge primary voters to support the president. On the campaign’s first day of events on Monday, Mitch Landrieu, a former New Orleans mayor who is a Biden campaign co-chairman, said in Flint, Mich., that he did not expect the conflict in Gaza to end “anytime soon.”

“Michiganders need to be cleareyed on the differences between Biden and Trump,” said Lavora Barnes, the chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “Our job is going to be to help people remember that when there’s a choice between two people in November, the only way to vote will be for Joe Biden.”

That may be a difficult sell for activists and officials involved in the Uncommitted push if Mr. Biden does not engineer a significant change in American policy toward the Gaza war.

Rima Mohammad, a member of the Ann Arbor school board who addressed the rally on Tuesday, said she could not imagine how Mr. Biden could expect people who feel “horrified” by the death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza to support him in the presidential election.

“President Biden abandoned this community,” Ms. Mohammad said. “People are feeling increasingly betrayed as the violence continues in Gaza.”


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