Biden visits Martin Luther King’s old college in African-American vote drive

Joe Biden, in academic robes, shakes hands with a young Black graduand
Mr Biden gave a commencement address at Morehouse College in Georgia - Alex Brandon/AP
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Joe Biden made an impassioned plea for the backing of African-American voters on Sunday, hailing his achievements for the Black communities whose support helped him win in 2020.

The US President’s commencement speech at Morehouse College in Georgia, where alumni include Martin Luther King, came against the backdrop of a wave of campus protests over the war in Gaza.

It also came with polls showing a decline in support from African-Americans that Democrat strategists fear could deal a fatal blow to Mr Biden’s hopes of re-election in November.

A New York Times/Sienna College poll last week predicted Donald Trump would win the support of 20 per cent of Black voters in November, roughly double what he achieved in 2020.

Mr Biden said his administration had delivered to African Americans.

He said: “We’ve connected Black neighbourhoods cut off by the highway with decades of disinvestment. We’ve delivered cheques in pockets to reduce Black child poverty to the lowest rate in history.”

Two young face the camera in their academic robes and mortarboards, while behind them the majority of the audience face the other way watching Mr Biden give his speech
A handful of graduands turned their backs on Mr Biden in protest at his handling of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza - Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

Mr Biden also said his administration had delivered clean water – a reference to the pollution scandal in the largely Black area of Flint, Michigan.

He added: “We’ve delivered affordable housing and high-speed internet so no child has to sit in a friend’s car and do their homework on a parking lot outside of McDonald’s.

“Today, record numbers of Black Americans have jobs, health insurance and more than ever.” To applause, Mr Biden said he had appointed the first Black female judge to the Supreme Court.

There had been fears that the speech would be disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters. A march of around 100 demonstrators was stopped by police outside the campus.

But apart from a handful of students turning their back on the president, he was heard in respectful silence, punctuated by occasional bursts of applause.

Hoping to defuse the issue, Mr Biden told his audience: “I want to say this very clearly. I support peaceful nonviolent protests. Your voices should be heard and I promise you I hear them.”

What was happening in Gaza was heartbreaking, he added, as he called for an immediate ceasefire, the release of the Israeli hostages and a two-state solution to settle the decades-long conflict.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump pledged to roll back Joe Biden’s gun control measures as he pitched for support from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Mr Trump gesticulates at a lectern, with a large banner reading 'NRA' behind him
Mr Trump addressing the National Rifle Association - Carlos Barria/Reuters

Speaking at the NRA’s annual meeting, he painted himself as an ally of gun owners and those who sell firearms.

“If the Biden regime gets four more years, they are coming for your guns,” he told his audience in Dallas on Saturday.

“In my second term, we will roll back every Biden attack on the Second Amendment,” he said to a delighted response.

In all, President Biden has taken 21 executive actions to tackle gun violence since coming to office, including cracking down on ghost guns, homemade weapons without serial numbers which make them untraceable.

Restrictions have also been placed on devices which can convert pistols into short-barrelled shotguns.

Mr Biden’s administration has also tightened up the regulations requiring safe gun storage and he is pushing Congress to step up requirements for background checks on purchasers.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 161 mass shootings so far this year, defined as incidents in which at least four people, excluding the shooter, have been shot.

While in office, Mr Trump’s administration banned “bump stocks”, devices which enabled rifles to fire hundreds of bullets a minute.

He made the move after the deadliest mass shooting in US history, when 60 people were killed and at least 400 wounded in Las Vegas. Sixty-four-year-old Stephen Paddock used a bump stock to fire off a high-speed fusillade of bullets.