Voice of STL: Biden rally at Kiener Plaza

By Lily Bartin, Olivia Silvey, and Liam Jackson

Former Vice President Joe Biden held a rally at Kiener Plaza in downtown STL on Saturday, March 7.

Lily Bartin
Tiffany Hamilton holds her Biden sign at his rally in downtown STL.

Tiffany Hamilton – Biden supporter

“I’m here today because I support Joe Biden and he’ll be our next president. I feel like he brings back the years before Trump, [and a sense of]  comfort. He’s genuine, he’s caring and he’s very experienced. I’m a more moderate voter and I’m hoping he can unite the democratic party, moderates and liberals, as well as Republicans. Today I want to hear a message of hope, unity, excitement, bringing our country back together and bringing stability again. I feel like we’ve been very unstable for the last few years, and it’s been scary. I think it’s important that everyone gets involved. A lot of people didn’t get involved in the 2016 election, or they were upset that their candidate didn’t win in the primary so they didn’t vote. It’s so important that people come out and actually vote this time because I think four more years of Trump would just end what the U.S. actually stands for.”

Lily Bartin
William and Susan Crawford sit on a bench watching the line form for the Biden rally.

William and Susan Crawford – Spectators

“We’re here to watch the Loyola game in March Madness. We came down from Chicago to support Loyola. We knew the [Biden campaign event] would be going on in the area, so we came for the game and stayed for this.” – William Crawford

“I’m interested in hearing from him, and I don’t have any specific things I’m hoping to hear. I don’t really think his performance here will really change how I feel about him or how I vote in the primaries. I liked Pete Buttigieg and he left, so you never know how it’s going to go, with the primaries. I do believe that we just have to beat Donald Trump.” – Susan Crawford

Lily Bartin
Rich Eichhorst holds his sign promoting support of the government run train service, Amtrak.

Rich Eichhorst – Train enthusiast

“We need someone to support various causes, [and] Amtrak is one of them. Joe is a strong supporter [of Amtrak]. The president’s administration is trying to kill the long-distance train and if we’re going to be a civilized country we need trains. I’m a lifetime rider of trains, and  I believe if we’re not going to be a third world country we need to invest in mobility. I’m hoping that Biden will mention trains today as one of his platform planks, he’s always been a strong supporter of Amtrak. We need high-speed trains, 20 countries in the world have them but we don’t. There will be one country in three years that will have more high-speed trains than all the rest of the world combined and we’re paying for it. That country is China.”

Cheryl Sommer and Hilary Scott-Ogunrinde – United Congregations of Metro East representatives

“I’m here to make sure that all the presidential candidates, as well as the local candidates, do not forget about East Saint Louis. It is a community where poverty is above 160 percent higher than the national average, where the average wage is unlivable, where 47 percent of the population lives in poverty. Biden is ten minutes away from where we plan to hold a forum tomorrow, we invited him, and he has decided not to come. He’s ten minutes away from people who want to hear from him, who are willing and ready to engage in a conversation about the people’s issues. We are willing to put boots on the ground to do the work to affect change in our community and we want to know that whoever wants our vote is willing to work with us. Not showing up is saying you’re not willing to work with us. We’re part of a faith-based community organization in the Metro East, United Congregations of Metro East. We have power because we work together and we represent two counties. This organization has been able to pull the most divided institutions together to work collectively to address the issues in our community. So what better organization to have a conversation with than one that’s already uniting people, across faiths, across colors, across socio-economic status.” – Hilary Scott-Ogunrinde (right) – civic ministry leader with United Congregations of Metro East


“There’s the Veolia Waste Incinerator, a toxic waste incinerator in the backyard of East Saint Louis. They burn toxins and the EPA rolled back regulations under the Trump administration, allowing them to not even monitor what they’re putting into the air. Just recently we have learned that they have been authorized to burn the foam that they put on runways to stop fires, which is an incredibly toxic material. We have a 79-year-old grandmother in our organization who’s given up the golden years of her life to raise three great-grandchildren, living less than a mile from this incinerator. Our government is allowing them to poison her and the children. That’s unacceptable and we need our presidential candidates to say they’re going to act decisively to implement these regulations.” – Cheryl Sommer (left) – President of United Congregations of Metro East

Lily Bartin
Faizan Shaik works at the Biden rally.

Faizan Shaik – Biden 2020 campaign staff

“[Missouri] is a Republican state, so when we have a campaign by the Democratic party it’s really important for people to come out and support Joe Biden—support any Democrat—because it’s a better option than what we have right now in office. [People] get to see the person talking, Joe Biden talking, in this case … and they get to see what kind of man he really is instead of watching him on TV. You really have to come out to get the whole feeling of the campaign. It really makes you feel like a part of [it].”

Lily Bartin
Zach Thompson sits in line with his Biden sign.

Zach Thompson – Biden supporter

“I’m here to support Joe Biden and I think he’s a really great candidate who can unify the Democratic Party rather than divide it as Trump has done to the Republican Party. I would really love to hear some plans to reach out to progressive voters, potential Sanders supporters. I think he’s a great unification candidate so I’d like to see more of his plans to do that if he were to get the nomination and how he would reach out to those voters to vote for him in the general and not deflect from voting like what happened a couple of years ago.”

Lily Bartin
Biden supporters gather in line with “Fire Fighters for Biden” signs.

Lucas Andert – Fire fighters for Biden

“We are with the International Association of Fire Fighters. We are a trade labor union that represents professional firefighters, paramedics, and dispatchers. Joe has been involved in politics for a long time and the first election that he ran for he was supported by us. As soon as he announced his candidacy we endorsed him. He’s been a good friend of the firefighters and a good friend of public safety for a long time so we are happy to support him and know that he supports us.”

Liam Jackson
2014 KHS Graduate, Natalie Calandro, stands in line at the Biden rally.

Natalie Calandro – 2014 KHS Graduate

“I’m here because I love Joe Biden and I really think that he would be a great president. I mean, he was Vice President for eight years and I think he has a real shot at beating Donald Trump. Between Biden and Bernie Sanders, I think Biden has a better chance because while I like Bernie, I think his ideas are a little too radical, not as much moderate. To really appeal to everyone you have to be more in the middle, appeal to the base and I don’t think Bernie’s ideas are practical.”

Lily Bartin
Tonya Jones protests Biden, holding her sign behind him and shouting “no crime bill Biden.”

Tonya Jones – Protestor

“All of these people out here supporting Biden, who tried to silence me, were once in the streets protesting people like Biden. Biden spent his years appeasing segregationists and Dixiecrats. The lasting impact of the crime bill is essentially an apartheid system where black people are overrepresented in our jails. Biden represents everything wrong with America. I have no one to vote for and that’s horrible because we are loyal Democrats., and we’ve had 70 years of Democrats elected in Saint Louis City. Us black women, most of us are single and raising our house alone, living in third-world conditions, and you’re asking us to vote for this grand-pappy of mass incarceration. Biden will lose to Trump, white America will feel some of our pain, and then, and only then, will that motivate them to give us a good candidate to vote for. How a candidate treats the most dispossessed in America is an indication of how their policy will work to improve the lives of everyone in America.”

This story was originally published on The Kirkwood Call on March 8, 2020.