DETROIT - Former President Bill Clinton marched down Michigan Avenue in Detroit during this morning's Labor Day parade, chatting with union members and posing for many rounds of selfie photographs with amused bystanders.
Clinton, 70, navigated the event's 1 mile-plus route on foot, surprising some fellow parade-goers who had anticipated a briefer and less intimate appearance -- perhaps from a car -- by the nation's 42nd president. He joined the march at Michigan and Trumbull, across from the former Tiger Stadium site, and walked with the crowd at a relatively brisk pace into downtown. He paused at the intersection of Washington Boulevard to greet and shake hands. One man yelled "Alright Bill," and another shouted "Slick Willie."
"He's a lot closer than I expected," said Hannah Weaver of Plymouth, who along with her mother, Kathy Weaver, watched Clinton from the sidewalk. "I didn't know he was going to be walking down the street like that."
He strolled alongside Democrat elected officials, including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters, but also many regular individuals there for the parade. He didn't stop to give a speech, but did speak later in the morning at a UAW picnic outside Solidarity House on the Detroit riverfront.
Numerous people approached the former president during the parade, smartphones in hand. Many of them succeeded at getting souvenir selfies, including Emily Oskika of Canton Township, who turned 19 today.
"We kind of camped out for him," she said.
The crowd around Clinton was especially thick at the intersection of Washington and Fort Street. There he stopped for a quick photo with Tonya Moore, 54, of Detroit, who later recounted how she was impressed by Clinton's decision to "walk with the people."
Moore was one of the few Detroiters who this weekend greeted both Bill Clinton as well as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump was in the Detroit Saturday to attend a service at Great Faith International Ministries Church, the same church that Moore belongs to. But Trump, unlike Clinton, also attracted a large group of protesters during his stay.
Moore said she was part of the church's "hospitality team" responsible for welcoming Trump to Detroit.
"It was about him being given a fair opportunity to present his views," she said of Trump's controversial visit to her church. It was his third visit to Michigan since the Republican National Convention.
Clinton concluded his march outside Cobo Center. He chatted with a group of union members for several minutes and then ducked into a gray Chevrolet Suburban SUV. Before Clinton sped away, David Burcar, 60, of Clinton Township, urged the former president to check out this weekend's Detroit Jazz Festival.
"I was walking with him for awhile and I told him to come to the jazz festival," Burcar recalled. "And he looked at his aide and he says, 'Why didn't you tell me about this jazz festival?'"
His wife Hillary Clinton and her running mate — Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine — are not in Detroit today but in Cleveland for its Labor Day Festival. Hillary Clinton is also scheduled to attend a Salute to Labor program in Hampton, Ill., while Kaine was to be joined by Vice President Joe Biden at a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh.
Hillary Clinton was last in Michigan on Aug. 11, delivering a speech on jobs and the economy in Warren. She was also the keynote speaker at the NAACP's Fight for Freedom dinner in May in Detroit.
Detroit Free Press