(Bloomberg) -- Pro-Palestinian demonstrators nearly penetrated the security perimeter around President Joe Biden’s motorcade in San Francisco earlier this month, prompting cries for help from a White House aide and a moment of alarm for the US Secret Service.

The Feb. 22 incident at the Fairmont Hotel saw protesters follow White House staffers and reporters into a restricted stairwell. When one aide yelled “we need help over here,” the Secret Service counter-assault team readied their rifles in what’s called “low ready” position with guns pointed down. The group, carrying a “Stop Funding Genocide” banner, almost made it to a secure area where the president’s motorcade was waiting before being turned away.

Protests like that one, along with weeks of demonstrations outside the homes of senior administration officials, have prompted rising alarm among Biden and his team as they confront unprecedented blowback over their handling of Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The most shocking protest yet occurred Sunday, when Aaron Bushnell, an active-duty Air Force serviceman, set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He later died.

US Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment on the incident at the Fairmont Hotel but said demonstrations have been common at presidential events in recent months. None have risen to a level of a major safety concern, he said. One person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified commenting on the president’s schedule, said Biden’s departure from the Fairmont that day was delayed only briefly.

Even so, when Biden visited Michigan in early February, his itinerary was kept closely guarded to avoid protests. Demonstrators were removed at a Biden event in Manassas, Virginia, in January, and two women wearing head scarves were turned away from a Biden rally in Las Vegas. A White House spokesperson said they had disrupted a previous event. 

The protests have shone a spotlight on the challenges that the Biden administration has faced as it navigates the bloody aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Biden and his team have been more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than his predecessor, Donald Trump, and have called repeatedly for Israel to protect Palestinian civilians. 

Yet now it’s those officials who have been accused of genocide and of abandoning Palestinians while siding with Israel, continuing to provide it weapons to go after Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union, even as the death toll mounts. Israel’s counterattack has left more than 30,000 dead in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. 

Read More: Dozens Dead After Violence Near Aid Trucks in Gaza City

Patrick Kennedy, a former undersecretary of state, said he had checked with a colleague and recalled small protests outside former Secretary of State John Kerry’s home but nothing on the scale officials are confronting now.

“That’s the only precedent that he and I could think of,” Kennedy, who joined the foreign service in 1973, said in an interview. “And we, collected together, go back 20, 25, 30 years.”

The anger toward Biden has had political consequences, most notably in Michigan, which has a large Arab-American population and where where 100,000 people in a primary this week voted uncommitted — two thirds of Biden’s 150,000-vote margin of victory over Trump in 2020. 

The protests are the latest evolution of a trend that’s seen top officials and staffers confronted much more directly. Under the Trump administration, staff were confronted while dining out or at their homes, and protesters waged similar demonstrations outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

Along with the San Francisco episode, there have been many more over the war in Gaza, the most public and vocal being a continuing protest outside Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s home in Virginia as well as demonstrations outside the homes of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. 

It’s a reflection of the social-media age when it’s much easier to track officials and coordinate movement. As a way to get people to find Blinken’s home, one group created a fake breakfast restaurant — called “Wakey Wakey Eggs & Bakey Tony’s Going to the Haguey!” — before it was removed from Google Maps.

The protesters have dumped fake blood on the street as Blinken’s motorcade departs. His security detail has hung black cloth screens over the gates surrounding his home. 

“We are making ‘good trouble’ as a plea to US leadership to stop the injustice,” Hamazi Barmada, one of the protesters outside Blinken’s home, said in a post on Instagram. “We have set up a camp at Blinken’s house and remind him of the failure of action on Palestine.”

White House staff have been careful to not show any disrespect toward the protesters. The Secret Service has its own policy against blocking protesters from sites where the president or other top officials are as long as they’re not making threatening statements or gestures toward the official. 

“We are aware of the depth of feelings that people have over this issue, and we are constantly taking those points of view into account and using them to think about how we approach the issue and whether there are things that we can do differently,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told a briefing on Feb. 27.

In addition to the public protests, the administration’s handling of the crisis has prompted fierce internal pushback, including several resignations. Among them was Tariq Habash, who quit his job as an adviser at the Department of Education in January.

“It was very, very hard to feel like I could continue to represent the administration and its agenda on issues that I worked on because of the fact that it didn’t feel like the administration had room for me and my identity and who I was,” Habash, who is Palestinian-American, said in an interview. He called official outreach “more of a ticking-the-box exercise than anything else.”

--With assistance from Josh Wingrove.

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