More than a year after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in rural Ohio, forcing thousands of residents to flee, Joe Biden finally arrived in the East Palestine village on Friday afternoon.
Locals made their feelings clear about the delay. Their caravan passed through a pile of banners proclaiming: “Too little, too late,’ and the streets were filled with people shouting, ‘Fuck you.’
They are furious that the president waited a year to see the impact of the collapse and believe it will only come now because of the November election.
Some were Trump supporters. Some had traveled from out of town.
But others were families whose homes overlooked the railroad and the disaster site. They carried signs that said: ‘Help.’ Our children are still sick.’
Trump supporters began gathering before 9 a.m. to await the president’s visit.
President Joe Biden visited East Palestine on Friday afternoon to see for himself the site of last year’s derailment that caused toxic chemicals to spill into the Ohio village.
They want financial help from their administration so they can move and avoid any danger left by last year’s disaster.
Life turned upside down when the 150-freight train carrying toxic chemicals derailed. Among its cargo was 700,000 pounds of vinyl chloride, a carcinogen used to produce pipes, furniture and other plastic products.
Rescuers made the decision to use a “controlled burn” to avoid the danger of a large explosion, which would cause a thick column of black smoke.
Biden was shown the site of the disaster and then gave a speech promising that aid would remain as long as it was needed.
He reserved particular anger for Norfolk Southern, whose train derailed.
“There are acts of God,” he said. “This was a 100 percent preventable act of greed.”
The visit took him deep into Trump country, a county won by the former president with more than 70 percent of the votes cast in 2020.
Biden said none of that mattered.
“What matters is that we are all Americans, we all, everyone, take care of each other,” he said. “We leave no one behind.”
But his welcoming committee included streets filled with protesters, including Trump supporters who had traveled to vent their anger.
Chris Solis, 58, who drove an hour from Pittsburgh to participate in the protest, accused Biden of making a “symbolic” appearance.
“East Palestine has been neglected and that has been a trademark of its administration,” he said.
“He speaks in degrading and condescending tones to ordinary people.”
Before arriving in East Palestine, Biden met with first responders addressing the disaster at the Darlington Municipal Complex, just across the state line in Pennsylvania.
Protesters expressed anger as Biden’s motorcade entered East Palestine.
Rally organizer Mike Young said Trump supporters traveled from all over to join the protest.
“East Palestine has been neglected and that has been a trademark of his administration,” said Chris Solis, who was on Main Street as part of the protest against Biden’s visit.
The White House defended the moment.
“The president has always said that when the time is right and when it makes sense for him to leave, he will do so,” said his press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. “And so, that’s what he’s doing.”
That left residents wondering what deadly toxins were released into the air, soil and water.
Since then, federal authorities insist they have taken steps to ensure the environment and homes are safe.
The Environmental Protection Agency says so More than 176,000 tons of hazardous waste were eliminated. More than 49 million gallons of water, rain and snowmelt were removed or treated.
Norfolk Southern, the railroad that operates the freight train that derailed on Feb. 3 last year, said it has spent about $1.1 billion on its response.
That was not enough to stop Trump supporters from gathering on Main Street, right in front of the mayor’s office, accusing the Biden administration of failing the people of East Palestine.
They waved flags that said, “Even my dogs hate Biden” and held signs demanding that the president be jailed.
Mike Young, who organized the protest, said: “It’s not enough. These people are suffering down here. They’re scared. I think they’re scared.
“They don’t want to move home.”
And they lined up Biden’s route to the village. One man raised his middle finger in salute as the president passed, and others chanted: ‘Fuck Joe Biden.’
Trump supporters pointed to the former president’s visit last year, less than three weeks after the derailment, as evidence of his support for economically marginalized communities.
And many residents agree that more needs to be done for their community to recover. But the protest upset many who said they were tired of being a political backdrop.
Ferguson’s parents moved into the house in 1970. Today it is empty like the neighboring houses.
A large plume of smoke rises over East Palestine, Ohio, last year after a controlled detonation of a portion of a derailed Norfolk Southern train to burn dangerous chemicals.
A customer at the Sprinklz restaurant next to the protest said: “Many of them are not even from eastern Palestine.”
Staff fought a constant battle to keep the expletive-filled signs at the front of their store.
Krissy Ferguson, a 49-year-old mother, said she was looking forward to the opportunity to meet Biden. And she told DailyMail.com on Thursday that she would never be able to return to her home and she needed help moving out.
“I can’t live here anymore,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. ‘Is not safe.’
Community activists sent a letter to Biden demanding that he issue a major disaster declaration, provide long-term health care and monitoring, and offer relocation funding for those like Ferguson who want to leave.
One of the authors, Jess Conard, said it was time to put politics aside and work with Biden to help the community.
“We are Americans and he is our leader,” he said. ‘And I think that’s a really important distinction, no matter which side of the line you’re on.
“President Biden is coming to my community because he recognizes that it needs to be done.”