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Mass. City Welcomes President Clinton

Visit Is First By Chief Since Truman in 1952

By Richard M. Burnes, Special to The Crimson

FALL RIVER--This proud working-class city that has struggled in recent years got a boost Saturday when President Bill Clinton roared into town for a campaign appearance.

In the area to support Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass) and Congressional candidate James P. McGovern, Clinton became the first chief executive to speak in Fall River since Harry S. Truman visited while campaigning for Adlai Stevenson in 1952.

Though it was just another stump speech for Clinton and his entourage, many of the 20,000 people who gathered in the city's Kennedy Park considered it a must-see event.

"I wouldn't miss it for the life of me," Anthony M. Souza, a Fall River resident, said before the rally.

In this region populated predominantly by Portuguese immigrants, many were glad to finally see their leader.

"I've been in this country 30 years, and this is my first President," Stelvio Alves said with a sense of satisfaction.

For others, the event seemed to confirm their happiness in their new home.

"I like it here; I like my President...The life over here is better," said Jose Medrios, a Fall River resident born in Portugal, as he sat in a chair playing dominoes and smoking cigarettes under one the city's ubiquitous backyard arbors.

This liberal enclave warmly greeted the guests, who included Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56 (D-Mass.), a local legend.

"Kennedy opened the gates for the Portuguese people," Mannuel Agneau, a town resident, said prior to the event. "He knows that the Portuguese work like a horse."

Speaking before the President and Kerry, Kennedy fired up the flag-waving crowd.

"He's travelled to Europe; he's traveled to Asia; he's travelled to the West Coast; and he's finally come to Fall River," Kennedy said as the crowd roared in approval.

When the President finally came to the podium, nearly an hour behind schedule, the field of supporters filled a converted little league diamond with a sea of red, white and blue Clinton/Gore '96 and Kerry '96 signs.

With Clinton's words "Obrigado, Fall River"--thank you in Portuguese--the crowd exploded.

While most seemed happy despite the four hour wait for the President, some were angered by the excessive security, as is the norm for a Presidential event.

The 110 Fall River police officers were accompanied by a motorcade provided by the state police and nearly three dozen Secret Service agents. In addition, federal police and anti-sniper units were all highly visible at the event.

"This is a disaster," Arthur M. Vital said as he walked home. "It's a big farce. ...You can't get anywhere near him."

The Clinton-Kerry campaign event was a must-see for Fall River residents.

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