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President Biden Speaks at McAuliffe Campaign Event in Arlington

(Updated at 10:15 p.m.) President Joe Biden paid a visit to Arlington and the recently-renovated Lubber Run Park, in support of Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia gubernatorial bid.

A crowd of just under 3,000 well-wishers assembled feet from the doors of the Lubber Run Community Center, near Ballston, which just opened to the public earlier this month after serving as a vaccination site.

Biden’s motorcade arrived at the park at 6:50 p.m., after speeding past restaurants and onlookers in Arlington, according to a White House press pool report. There were “a couple dozen protesters” of various stripes outside the event, including those against fracking, oil pipelines, and abortion.

After arriving, Biden spoke with a group of DACA recipients, met with McAuliffe, and took photos with numerous state and local officials. He took the stage around 8 p.m. and spoke for about 30 minutes, highlighting his agreement with McAuliffe on just about every every issue.

The president talked about jobs, increasing the minimum wage, and veteran assistance, while also criticizing McAuliffe’s Republican opponent in the race, Glenn Youngkin. He also expressed concern about rising Covid numbers.

Biden complimented current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam efforts in helping to “get shots in arms,” but said there’s still work to be done.

“What we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said.

The president also noted, if McAuliffe is elected, he would once again be the First Lady Jill Biden’s boss, due to her being a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.

As the president spoke, uniformed Secret Service members with large binoculars watched over the crowd from the roof of the community center. At least one helicopter also buzzed overhead.

At one point, a group of hecklers started shouting something about a pipeline.

“This is not a Trump rally,” Biden said, according to the pool report. “Let ’em holler. No one’s paying attention.”

Prior to Biden and McAuliffe speaking, Dr. Leonard N. Smith, Senior Minister of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Green Valley, gave an invocation. McAuliffe later came out to Mark Morrison’s 1996 hit Return of the Mack before speaking for about 15 minutes. (“Returnofthemack” was also the event’s WiFi password.)

Other speakers included a bevy of Democrats: Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, lieutenant governor candidate Hala Ayala, Attorney General Mark Herring, Northam and Rep. Don Beyer.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, County Board members Takis Karantonis and Katie Cristol, Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, School Board member Monique O’Grady, Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, and Del. Alfonso Lopez were also in attendance.

“Welcome to Arlington, the healthiest county in Virginia,” Beyer, Arlington’s representative in Congress, declared when he spoke.

This, of course, isn’t the first — nor, likely, the last — time Biden has come across the Potomac, but this is the first time many locals can remember a president has come to their neighborhood.

Ray Payton lives in Buckingham and grew up nearby, graduating from Yorktown High School.

“I don’t know when a president has come to the neighborhood before,” Payton said earlier in the evening. “And I’ve been here all of my life.”

Balvinder Sehmi lives just a few doors down from the community center, in a house she’s lived in for 47 years. This is also the only insistence she can remember of a president stopping by.

“I’m surprised he’s here,” she said excitedly, above the din of the crowd. “I’m going to tell people he was at my house.”

While the rally may have statewide — even national — implications, it had a distinctly Arlington feel.

Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream of Westover (home of the cicada sundae) set up a cart on the basketball court at Lubber Run Park, serving up scoops.

Speaking prior to the president’s arrival, owner Toby Bantug said he closed up shop early to come out to the event. He brought along his whole family, a few employees, and a President Biden action figure.

“He’s our mascot,” he laughed as one of his kids held the figure up.

Bantug said a few of his regulars had already stopped by and was hoping that just maybe someone else will come on by to grab a scoop.

“We brought along some of the favorite flavors of the people speaking tonight,” Bantug said, not-so-subtly referring to Biden’s well-known love of ice cream. “There’s always a possibility [of Biden coming by]. This is pretty much the closest we’ve ever gotten.”

Unfortunately, Biden didn’t stop by this time, ARLnow confirmed. His motorcade departed shortly after 8:35 p.m., speeding again past some local restaurants.

But there’s hope for Toby — the president still lives only a few miles away.

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