Excited citizens, leaders welcome Biden to Portage

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — People gathered near the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport Friday afternoon to catch a glimpse of President Joe Biden making his first visit to Michigan since taking office.

A crowd of a couple hundred saw Air Force One land at the airport and the president’s motorcade drive the short distance to Pfizer’s Portage plant, where Biden met with employees making the COVID-19 vaccine and thanked them for their hard work.

“We’re just so thankful that we have such hardworking Pfizer employees and scientists just really trying to help make the world a better place,” Portage resident Brynn Newsted said.

“It just feels like we’re receiving some great recognition for the hard work we’ve done here in Portage, for the scientists, for the manufacturers, for the great talent and resources Portage brings,” her husband Adam Newsted agreed.

Heedless of the cold, they headed out with their children to see the president’s motorcade pass by.

“It’s incredible,” Brynn Newstead said. “This is history. I’m so happy to have my (son) out here so he can witness this and it just feels very hopeful.”

The crowd also included demonstrators from the Burmese community, hoping Biden would see their message and respond to the military coup in Myanmar.

“Many of us are distressed,” Tha Par of Battle Creek said. “We still have family and loved ones back in Burma but overall we want Burma to be a democratic country so we’re here to thank President Biden for what he has done and continue to ask him to do more.”

“Sanction is not enough. We need more help,” Aye Mah, also of Battle Creek, added. “We would like to relay that, president, we need help. Whatever he can do as soon as possible.”

The Burmese community from West Michigan demonstrates as President Joe Biden visits Portage. (Feb. 19, 2021)

A small delegation of local and state leaders met with Biden at the plant. Among them was Portage Mayor Patricia Randall and state Rep. Christine Morse, D-Portage.

“I appreciated him coming and calling attention to the city of Portage and the sacrifices that people have made here to produce the vaccine for the world,” Randall said. “Pfizer employs 2,500 people in the city of Portage, they’re our largest employer, and so everyone has rejoiced with them.”

“I’m just excited and just thrilled that it’s made here and our community has come together and the employees just are so dedicated to really getting us out of this pandemic,” Morse said.

Morse said being given the chance to meet the president as a first-term state representative was “exciting” and that she was “grateful that I was included in the group.”

Those who met with Biden were tested for COVID-19 ahead of time.

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