Activists And Spectators Watch Biden Arrive In Portage | WMUK

Activists And Spectators Watch Biden Arrive In Portage

Feb 19, 2021

Burmese-American activists wait for President Joe Biden's motorcade near the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport on Friday
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Though some people who didn't bring gloves said they wished they had, winter didn’t stop roughly 150 people from waiting near the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport today, some for more than an hour, in the hopes of glimpsing President Biden.

Many came for the spectacle: Air Force One, a motorcade, a chance to wave at the president. One couple said they were Biden fans and also they just needed to get out of the house. Several parents said they brought their kids for an educational experience, and one group, which set up early, was there to ask President Biden to intervene on behalf of Burmese democracy.

‘An educational experience’

Sharon Wallace of the Grand Rapids area was there with her son Michael, a Pfizer employee; her grandson and granddaughter.

“They’re more impressed than they thought they would be,” she said of the latter.

Her granddaughter made a sign that read, “Hi Joe,” and her grandson couldn’t wait to see Biden’s plane.

“Just trying to make them aware that this is an important thing,” she said. “Right here in their home town, it’s getting a presidential visit, not only a presidential visit but to the place where their daddy works. So that’s a pretty big deal!”

Kalamazoo parent David Wiggins suggested the visit was a much better use of his son and daughter’s time than virtual school.

“Since they can’t go to school, although all the other schools around here can go to school, Kalamazoo Public Schools around here don’t allow them to go back to school, this is one of the best educations they can get right now,” he said.

“Free Burma”

One group came with a message: they want Biden to intervene on behalf of democracy in Burma. Htin Win of Battle Creek said the roughly 40 activists came from several states: “From Kentucky, from Ohio, from Indiana, so we just welcome the president and just want to ask him for help for Burma,” he said.

Htin Win said Biden should consider military action to reverse a recent coup in Burma. He said sanctions wouldn’t be enough to make a difference.

“This is the 21st century,” he said, suggesting that with something like a drone strike the US could reverse the coup but avoid starting a war.

The activists held signs: “Free Burma,” “We want democracy,” “We Myanmar people fully support every action that UN and US will take on Terrorist Dictatorship.”

Biden arrives

Hot beverages grew tepid as the crowd waited for the president, who landed roughly on time, a little before 2 pm. "I see it, I see it," a little boy exclaimed as the jet taxied into view.

Some people waded through snow to get a view of the motorcade, which emerged a few minutes later.

The crowd cheered, and Biden smiled and gave a thumbs-up.