Harris visits Durham ahead of NC primary, protesters decry White House’s ‘complicity in genocide’

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Durham Friday to discuss economic growth in an address on Black Wall Street as part of the Biden administration’s Investing in America tour.

A few hours later, community members gathered downtown for a demonstration, charging Harris and President Joseph Biden with “complicity in genocide” against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

Harris’s trip came in advance of the North Carolina primary election on March 5. The day, known as “Super Tuesday,” will feature primaries in 15 states. Political front-runners see the historical swing state as critical campaign grounds, and many — including Republican presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Donald Trump — are making last-minute stops to promote their platform.

Harris talks small business investment

Harris began her stint in Durham with a visit to Ella West art gallery around 12:30 p.m. She viewed an exhibit by Stephen Hayes, Esbenshade assistant professor of the practice of art, art history and visual studies at Duke.

Shortly after, the vice president made her way to Black Wall Street to give an address on the importance of investing in small businesses, joined by Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

During her remarks, Harris announced $32 million in funding through the American Rescue Plan for historically underserved small businesses in the state, including 10 minority- and women-led venture capital firms. 

“Not everyone has access to opportunity, but when provided with access, the talent is there, the capacity is there, the drive is there, the ambition is there,” Harris said.

“This effort by the Biden-Harris administration’s American Rescue Plan will strengthen small businesses throughout our state,” Cooper said.

After the event, Harris traveled to N.C. Mutual Tower to give a brief address to NCInvest, a venture capital program that specializes in small business investments.

‘Complicit Harris’

In response to Harris’s arrival in the city, the Durham Party for Socialism and Liberation organized a demonstration calling on the current administration to support a ceasefire in Gaza and the end of what protesters termed “Israeli occupation and apartheid.”

“We made our voices heard,” PSL organizer Victor Urquiza said in an address to the crowd. “We told Durham that Kamala Harris is never welcome in our city again!”

Organizers gave remarks at CCB Plaza before leading over 50 participants in a march down the sidewalks of East Chapel Hill Street. Many donned Palestinian flags and held black-and-white signs that read phrases like “Free Palestine” and “Resistance Against Occupation is a Human Right!”

Another organizer led the group in a series of chants calling out “complicit Harris” and “genocide Joe.”

“From Durham to Palestine — occupation is a crime,” the participants shouted. “Biden, Harris, you can’t hide — you’re committing genocide.”

“It’s crimes against humanity to a scale we haven’t seen in a long time, and Kamala Harris is complicit in that,” Urquiza said. “Every single American with any consciousness should be outraged about this horrific war happening in Gaza.”

The chants also targeted a number of other controversial instances of U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, with references to conflicts in the Philippines, Mexico, Iraq and Afghanistan as examples of the “U.S. war machine” at work.

Participants returned to the plaza to conclude the demonstration, with Urquiza noting that they attempted to intersect with Harris’s motorcade, but she had left ahead of schedule.

The organizers expressed gratitude for the protesters’ energy, thanking them for attending despite the rain and showing their support in what has come to be a long-running effort.

“We’ve been having protests every single week in Raleigh, and it’s just really incredible to see people still coming out and still fighting,” Urquiza said. “I think it’s just really a testament to our movement and to the people’s consciousness.”

A memorial for Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old serviceman of the U.S. Air Force who self-immolated Sunday in an act of protest against the Israel-Hamas war, and other “martyrs of the Palestinian struggle” remained on the plaza from a Thursday vigil organized in honor of Bushnell. 

PSL plans to stage another protest Saturday afternoon in the state’s capital as part of International Day of Solidarity, a mass mobilization of support for the Palestinian people that will include demonstrations in several countries.

Tensions between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups in Durham have remained high since the original Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, a political and militant organization in Gaza. 

Durham’s City Council last week joined several other U.S. cities in calling for a ceasefire and an end to ongoing violence in the Israel-Hamas war, becoming the second North Carolinian city to pass such a resolution on Feb. 20. The 5-2 vote came after months of deliberation and followed hours of contentious debate between Mayor Leonardo Williams, city council members and a number of concerned Durham residents.

Biden announced Friday that the U.S. will begin airdropping humanitarian aid into Gaza in an effort to mitigate imminent famine in the region.

“No excuses, because the truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough,” Biden said. “Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line.” 

Biden said Feb. 26 that negotiators for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip are closing in on an agreement, and that he hopes to see a ceasefire in Gaza by the coming Monday.

Harris called for an "immediate ceasefire" in Gaza on Sunday, citing the "immense scale of suffering in Gaza." Harris' remarks were the most explicit made by the Biden administration on calling for an immediate pause to the fighting.

Still, many remain unconvinced that the Biden administration is doing all it can to stop the conflict in Gaza. Many political action groups — including PSL — are asking voters to choose “No Preference” as an alternative to Biden in the upcoming primary election on March 5.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Sunday evening to include Harris' Sunday call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.


Zoe Kolenovsky profile
Zoe Kolenovsky | Associate News Editor

Zoe Kolenovsky is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor for the news department. 

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