President Joe Biden greeted in CT with cheers — and sneers

Photo of Liz Hardaway

HARTFORD — Natalie Wallace was walking to work when she stumbled upon a crowd on Broad Street on Friday.

Restrained by barriers and police tape, the Hartford resident saw roughly 75 people brandishing signs for President Joe Biden, some in support, others against and some asking for changes in policy.

Biden visited Hartford's Capitol Child Development Center Friday to advocate for his Build Back Better Agenda, which includes more affordable child care for working families. As his motorcade stormed along the street, Wallace clapped and cheered, along with others, while dozens of critics waved flags supporting former President Donald Trump.

“I was hoping there would be more people out here to cheer the president on,” she said.

She stayed in the area to make sure the president had some support.

“I didn’t want the president to think only Trump supporters are here,” she said. “I don’t want him to think this is Hartford.”

Wallace was not the only Biden supporter, though. Many residents took out their phones to document the experience.

Before the motorcade arrived, the two opposing groups chanted in sync. After one group screamed, “Let’s go Biden,” the other countered with, “F--- Joe Biden.”

Despite some criticism faced in Hartford on Friday, the state overwhelmingly voted last year for Biden, who defeated Trump by 20 percentage points in the November 2020 election.

Ahead of the president’s arrival, about a dozen people gathered Friday morning near Hartford-Brainard Airport, where Biden’s helicopter landed. There, Biden met with Gov. Ned Lamont, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and other members of the state’s Democratic delegation.

On the corner of Maxim and Murphy roads, the group, which said they were part of a Facebook group called “Debbie’s Deplorables,” waved Trump flags, along with large banners displaying profanity with Biden’s name.

When asked for an interview, one man got on a bull horn and asked why “the fake news” wouldn’t talk to him. Afterward, he agreed to an interview, but did not give his name. He called Biden a “disgrace.”

The group said they’d been there since 7 a.m. and planned to follow the president throughout the day to exercise their First Amendment rights.

As Biden’s motorcade drove by, they continued to scream, “Trump won,” and profanities at the numerous vehicles traveling down Murphy Road.

Near the Child Development Center on Broad Street, Teresa Quintana was with about 20 members of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, holding signs to demand citizenship and rights for her immigrant neighbors.

Quintana said immigrants are “exploited in our community” and suffered immensely during the pandemic.

“The path of citizenship is overdue,” Quintana said, adding that Dreamers and others are waiting for immigration reform. “We need to do something about it.”

Waterbury resident Bill Vitale waved a Gadsden flag that stated, “Don’t Tread on Me” and wore a Soldier Solution shirt, which supports veterans. He said he wanted to show the president that he didn’t approve of mask or vaccine mandates.

“They should leave it up to us,” said Vitale, who said he’s not vaccinated. “I don’t believe it’s up to the government.”

As for Biden’s proposed expansion of child care, Vitale thinks government should stay out of that as well, even if it is expensive.

After the president and the numerous vehicles drove away, the crowd dispersed in the afternoon. Wallace observed the crowd had been a demonstration of free speech.

“The thing that’s great about this country is people can come out and say what they want to say,” Wallace said. “I’m not a believer in some of the messaging. My values don’t click with some of the people here, but I think they have a right to come and say what they want.”