Several dozen demonstrators marched to Morehouse College Sunday to protest President Joe Biden’s position on the ongoing war in Gaza and to air grievances on other topics.

The displays of disagreement with Biden were clear as the presidential motorcade entered the Atlanta campus at 8:37 a.m. A lone protester held a handwritten sign that said “Genocide Joe” among other things.

About a half-mile away, protesters gathered at West End Park to prepare for their peaceful demonstration. As the crowd continued to grow, protesters chanted “Biden Biden you’re a liar, we demand a cease-fire” and “Biden Biden you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

Daxton Pettus, a junior at Morehouse, said he came out to stand up for what is right.

”I made a commitment, a personal commitment, to be on the right side of history and to be an active agent,” Pettus said.

Pettus said he met with school trustees and the college’s president, David A. Thomas, but felt his voice wasn’t really heard.

”They said that they would be open for conversation but their words held no value, because they have not followed up and it’s been two weeks.”

He also said having Biden speak goes totally against what the college stands for.

”This is the home of Martin Luther King,” Pettus said. “We’re inviting a war criminal to come to speak to students, even though he is the president.”

Discussions about Biden speaking at Morehouse began in September, before the war began in Gaza.

The demonstrators took about a 10-minute walk to Morehouse’s campus. Atlanta police followed along, and asked protesters to stay on the sidewalk.

The group stopped at the intersection of Joseph E. Lowery Blvd and Fair Street. They chanted “Long live Palestine,” and “Come November, we’ll remember” referring to the upcoming election.

There were some expressions of discontent of the Biden administration’s position on the war inside the commencement ceremony.

Valedictorian DeAngelo Fletcher speaks at the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)


icon to expand image


In his valedictory speech, DeAngelo Fletcher, a Chicago native, was the first person to directly speak on the Gaza conflict.

With the president sitting behind him, Fletcher said he and the world has watched all of the bloodshed in the region. He talked extensively about King, who graduated from Morehouse in 1948. Fletcher said King served as his motivation for his remarks.

”I am calling for an immediate cease-fire,” he said among cheers. “I sing the song of righteous justice.”

Thomas hugged Fletcher after he concluded his speech. Biden applauded, stood and shook Fletcher’s hand, and talked to him briefly.

As Biden spoke, assistant professor Taura Taylor turned her back to the president while raising her right hand in a fist. A few students in one row sat with their backs to the president while holding a Palestinian flag.

Assistant Professor Taura Taylor raises her fist in protest of the Gaza war at the Morehouse commencement ceremony in Atlanta on Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)


icon to expand image


Outside the campus, police blocked the demonstrators as they tried to move closer in an effort for Biden and the audience to hear them. People inside the ceremony said they could not hear the protesters.

They walked to Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. and Parsons Street and engaged in several chants, such as “From ATL to Palestine, Cop City is a crime.” The latter part of the chant is a reference to the Atlanta public safety training center, which is being developed in DeKalb County.

As protesters made their way back to West End Park, some neighbors walked out of their homes complaining of the noise, saying they were woken up by the chanting.

The demonstrators milled about for several minutes before dispersing.