Anti-Biden activists say protest votes continue to mount in presidential primaries

Demonstrators rally in support of Palestinians in Gaza along Steinway Street in the Astoria neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 March 2024
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Anti-Biden activists say protest votes continue to mount in presidential primaries

  • Official tallies are not yet available but campaigners say initial results suggest a small but potentially significant number of protest votes were cast in primaries held on Tuesday
  • State primaries continue until June, although both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have already secured their parties’ nominations to stand for president in November

CHICAGO: Although both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have secured their parties’ nominations to stand for president, activists protesting against the Biden administration’s stance on Israel’s war in Gaza are continuing to monitor protest votes by Arabs and Muslims in the remaining primaries and whether or not they might reflect a movement capable of affecting the outcome of the presidential election in November.

Illinois, Arizona, Florida and Ohio held their primaries on Tuesday. Twenty other states and several provinces will hold theirs before the process concludes on June 4, including several “swing states” that could have a big effect on who becomes president.

The #AbandonBiden movement and partner coalitions in several states continue to urge Arabs and Muslims, and other voters unhappy with the president’s pro-Israel policies and actions in relation to the war in Gaza, to register their protest by selecting the “uncommitted” option on ballots in states where it is available, or to include “Gaza” as a write-in ballot choice, or simply cast a “no vote.”

The precise scale of the anti-Biden protest in the primaries is hard to measure as officials in many states have said the final tallies of votes, including protest votes, will not be available until counting by hand is completed next month.

Matt Dietrich, a spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said on Wednesday that official counts of protest votes were not yet available for the previous day’s poll in Illinois.

“It looks like most of the protest vote has come from the six-county region around Chicago,” he added.

“We won’t have an exact number until the hand count of every vote, the canvass, is completed on April 19. But in Illinois, 65 percent of all voters are in that six-county region of the state.”

Dietrich said he believes every state goes through a similar process, in which the unofficial vote tallies reported by the media soon after the polls close must be officially verified, a process that can take several weeks.

However, #AbandonBiden activists told Arab News that they believe the preliminary estimates suggest their protest remains “vibrant.”

In Chicago, for example, early indications are that more than 297,217 people voted in the Democratic primary. Biden received 227,756 votes, while three rivals received 26,646 between them. That left 42,815 Democrat votes in Chicago unaccounted for, from people who did not vote for Biden or his rivals, wrote in an alternative choice, such as “Gaza” or “uncommitted,” or spoiled their ballot.

In Chicago’s Cook County suburbs, of the 205,805 people requested ballots 172,880 voted for Biden and 15,500 for his three rivals, leaving 17,425 votes that might represent protest votes.

Activists said these so-far uncategorized votes in those two elections alone represent nearly 60,000 voters who might support the protest against Biden, a number they believe will grow by November.

“This is an indication that the general public is dissatisfied in the performance of President Biden, especially on foreign policy and on Gaza and Palestine,” said Samir Khalil, founder of the Arab American Democratic Club in Chicagoland. “In the last 30 years, nothing has happened. The Democrats have not done anything.

“There is a disappointment that we have soldiers who came back from war, who don’t get the medical treatment they need, and yet we still find a way to give billions in arms and everything else to Israel. And yet here we are, lacking education, healthcare, infrastructure and we are creating more enemies around the world.”

Although Illinois is not considered a swing state, and Biden easily won the state in 2020 by more than 1 million votes, campaigners said the apparent scale of the anti-Biden vote there suggests the #AbandonBiden movement could pose a serious threat to his chances in states where the result four years ago was much closer.

In Arizona, for example, a swing state in which #AbandonBiden and other pro-ceasefire activists are active, leaders of the protest movement believe their campaign is clearly having an effect.

“Why would you vote in a Democratic primary election and not vote for the only major candidate running … unless you are angry with that candidate? That is what we are seeing in Arizona,” said Ahmad Aleweisha, co-chair of the #AbandonBiden campaign in Arizona.

“We see the vote results have skewed against Biden here in Arizona. Any vote not for Biden is a vote against Biden, and that has totaled about 40,000 votes in Arizona on Tuesday."

Aleweisha claimed that “more than 100,000 people in the community declined to vote” in the election because of Biden’s refusal to embrace calls for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Activists in Pennsylvania are organizing a similar protest in the state’s Democratic primary on April 21.

“The #AbandonBiden campaign is a civil rights struggle that stands for the premise that life must be protected,” said Hassan Abdel Salam, co-founder of the #AbandonBiden National Coalition.

“Biden turned his back on the value of life. There are no Israelis. There are no Palestinians. The only question is whether you are on the side of life.”

Iftekhar Hussain, a leading member of the #AbandonBiden campaign in Pennsylvania, said: “We are calling on all Pennsylvanians to join the write-in campaign and write ‘No Joe.’ No matter what you write in, the message is that Pennsylvanians will no longer accept ‘Genocide Joe’ to lead our country.”

Biden and Trump will address their parties’ national conventions in the run-up to the presidential election. The #AbandonBiden coalition has said it hopes to organize a national gathering after those events to vet candidates and possibly endorse alternatives to both Biden and Trump.

Democrats in Florida, traditionally considered a swing state, decided to cancel their presidential primary and award their nomination to Biden automatically. The decision frustrated efforts by anti-Biden activists to organize a protest in the state.

Aleweisha told Arab News he believes that the establishment, along with many in the mainstream media, were trying to downplay the scale of the anti-Biden movement.

Biden easily won the Ohio primary on Tuesday but the state election board has not yet released figures on how many protest votes were cast.

Officials from Biden’s re-election campaigns in Illinois and in Ohio did not respond to requests for comment.


Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur'an: police

Security personnel stand guard in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. (AFP file photo)
Updated 4 sec ago
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Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur'an: police

  • Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Qur'an was slain and burned Thursday by a crowd that removed him from a police station where he had been detained for his protection, authorities said.
“On the evening of the 20th, locals in the Madian area detained a man, alleging he had burned the Qur'an. The police intervened, rescued him, and took him to the local police station,” a police source in Swat told AFP, noting the man was not from the area.
But the crowd, urged on by local mosques, converged on the police station and pelted it with stones.
“To disperse the angry mob, police fired warning shots into the air, which further incited the crowd. The mob overpowered the police, dragged the man out, and beat him to death with sticks,” the source said.
Later, some people poured oil on his body and set it ablaze, the source added.
A local official confirmed the incident, saying: “After killing the man, the enraged protesters started stoning the police, forcing them to abandon the station.
The situation in the area remained tense, with protesters blocking the main road, according to the official.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence.
In late May, a Christian accused of burning pages of the Qur'an was also lynched by a mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab region, before succumbing to his injuries in early June, according to police.
Also in Punjab, in February 2023, a crowd beat to death a Muslim accused of having desecrated the holy book.
 

 


Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
Updated 19 min 9 sec ago
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Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

  • The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime

GENEVA: Campaign groups called on the United Nations human rights chief on Thursday to take more action over what they said were documented abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
The groups, including the World Uyghur Congress and Amnesty International said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk had not followed up on a 2022 report by his own predecessor that found China may have committed crimes against humanity.
China defended its record and dismissed the groups’ statement given at a meeting in the Geneva headquarters of the UN Human Rights Council.
Volker did not attend the meeting and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After taking office in October 2022, the Austrian former lawyer said he stood by the report and wanted to engage China over the findings.
The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime.
China has repeatedly denied accusations of abuses in its northwest Xinjiang region.
Just before Turk took office, mostly non-Western members of the Rights Council voted down a motion brought by the US, Britain and other mostly Western powers to hold a debate about the report — a result that was seen as a diplomatic victory for Beijing.
“To date there has been no action, no meaningful action,” Zumretay Arkin, a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, told Thursday’s meeting. “We are here to remind everyone ... that impunity cannot be the solution.”
The campaign groups, also including Human Rights Watch and the International Service for Human Rights, translated the 2022 report into five languages, published them and called for Turk to give an update on how his office and China had responded to the report’s recommendations.
China’s attache at its mission in Geneva, Zhu Kexing, told the session: “In order to discredit China and hinder China’s development, a small number of NGOs and Western countries do not hesitate to act as liars and rumor-makers to serve their anti-China separatist plots.”
Several countries including the United States and Australia also voiced concerns about the lack of follow-up on the 2022 report but stopped short of giving specific recommendations on how Turk’s office should react.

 


US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

Updated 26 min 50 sec ago
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US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular anti-virus products in the country, the US Commerce Department announced.
“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” the Commerce Department said in a statement announcing the action, which it said is the first of its kind.
 

 


Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

Updated 34 min 39 sec ago
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Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

MOSCOW: Russians on Thursday reported some problems with processing payments at major banks after a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Russian banks, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported.
At least one Russian bank was telling clients that it was having trouble sending messages containing codes to confirm payments, a Reuters reporter said.
The Kommersant newspaper said Russians had reported problems using the websites of major banks, as well as with the Telegram messaging app and with major mobile phone networks.
It cited Russia’s payments cards operator as saying that the disruption had been short-lived and that the fast payments system was now working as usual.
The IT army of Ukraine, a group of volunteers committed to disrupting Russian digital communications, later issued a statement saying it was responsible the Russian bank outages.


US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden

Updated 44 min 18 sec ago
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US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden

  • French Gates announced in May that she would be using her $12.5 billion fortune to help “women and families,” making a first payment of $1 billion

WASHINGTON: American philanthropist Melinda French Gates, the ex-wife of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, endorsed President Joe Biden on Thursday for November’s US election, arguing that he is the best candidate for women.
“I’ve never endorsed a presidential candidate before. But this year’s election stands to be so enormously consequential for women and families that, this time, I can’t stay quiet,” she said on X.
“Women deserve a leader who cares about the issues they face and is committed to protecting their safety, their health, their economic power, their reproductive rights, and their ability to freely and fully participate in a functioning democracy.”
French Gates, who recently stepped down as president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the contrast between Biden and his Republican opponent Donald Trump “couldn’t be greater, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
“I will be voting for President Biden,” she concluded.
Reproductive rights have been an effective political cudgel for Democrats in the two years since the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that made abortion a constitutionally protected right.
A comfortable majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in most cases, according to extensive polling, and around half of states have measures in place to protect access.
The issue has been a major theme of the election campaign, with Biden supporting women’s right to choose and Trump failing to stake out a clear-cut position beyond pride in appointing three of the justices who struck down Roe v Wade.
French Gates announced in May that she would be using her $12.5 billion fortune to help “women and families,” making a first payment of $1 billion.
She said the Supreme Court ruling on abortion had prompted her to devote herself to defending women’s rights.