Massive crowd welcomes Hillary Clinton to Montclair’s Watchung Booksellers
By ERIN ROLL
The line literally stretched around the block — and well beyond — for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book signing at Watchung Booksellers Tuesday evening.
The former secretary of state, first lady and presidential candidate was in Montclair as part of the book tour for “What Happened,” her account of the results and aftermath of the 2016 presidential election.
Watchung Booksellers put 1,000 tickets up for sale on the day the event was announced last month. The tickets sold out in an hour. Ticketholders were allowed to line up well in advance of the official 6 p.m. start time.
A loud burst of applause went up from the first group of attendees inside the bookstore as Clinton entered the shop, shook hands and posed for photos, and began signing books. “We love you!” several attendees called out.
Many people also brought copies of “It Takes A Village,” Clinton’s book for children, to be signed.
Outside, a large group of people that hadn’t been able to get tickets gathered around the barricades in the hopes of getting a glimpse of Clinton, and at one point, several started a chant of “Hillary.”
“It looks like all the right things are happening. It looks like Montclair is showing how blue it is,” said Montclair resident Debbie Kravitz, who was watching across the street with her dog, Murray.
“I’m so heartbroken because I didn’t get a ticket,” said West Orange resident Carmen Laplante. “I’m just glad I’m here to see her.”
“My whole family are supporters from way back. I wish she was president, and I wish I had a ticket,” said Clifton resident Natalie Baff. “We love her and wish her well, wish her much success in the future.”
The Tiny Elephant cafe and bakery, which shares space with Watchung Booksellers, provided refreshments for sale, including cookies decorated to look like Clinton.
Representatives from NJ 11th for Change walked up and down the length of the line, distributing information and copies of the U.S. Constitution to the waiting people. Law enforcement from the Montclair Police Department, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, NJ Transit police and the Secret Service patrolled the area during the event.
An MPD patrolman monitoring the line where it crossed a parking lot entrance on North Fullerton was asked if he minded this kind of job. He said the only thing better than having Clinton in Montclair would have been not having her here — because she was in the White House.
As of 6:30 p.m., the line out from Watchung Booksellers stretched to the corner of Fairfield Street and down North Fullerton Avenue beyond Frederick Street.
Along the sidewalk bordering Watchung Field, children climbed the chain-link fence as high as their parents let them go. One little girl wore a pink T-shirt that said “Future President.”
Hungry people could order a sandwich from Watchung Deli and have it delivered to them in line. A menu distributed by deli employees offered a sandwich that was “rumored to be Hillary’s fav,” meatloaf topped with green olives and Dijon mustard on a long roll.
“I definitely am happy to come out and support her book. I’m interested in hearing her take on it,” said Glen Ridge resident Zipporah Hommel, who was near the very end of the line as of 6:30. “I’m at the end, but I know I’m going to stay for as long as it takes.”
LaTonyia Cameron was also waiting. A West Orange resident whose children attended the Montclair schools, Cameron is the troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 20147. “My Girl Scouts were devastated after the election, and they talk politics at every meeting,” she said. In February, she and the troop went to Washington, D.C., for the Girls In Politics conference. “They’re motivated to be activists and to be involved in politics,” Cameron said.
Among Clinton’s eager fans, however, there was one dissenter: a man wearing a prison jumpsuit and an oversized mask of Clinton’s face. The man did not identify himself, but said that his goal was to start a conversation and dialogue. He especially wanted to know why the general public did not appear to be asking about the history between the Democratic National Convention and Bernie Sanders. “I welcome it, they’re not screaming, they’re not shouting,” he said of people’s reactions to his costume.
“But that’s all he wants, perpetuating this sort of ridiculousness,” retorted New York resident Camille Maratachi.
Later, she added, “I think it’s almost a show of sorts, and it’s a comedic way of showing opposition.” She noted that she had attended several rallies in support of Clinton during the campaign.
Several people eagerly showed off their autographed books as they left the shop.
Joanne Bloomstein and her daughter, Samantha, a freshman at Montclair High School, were among those leaving the shop after the signing. “It was great. She looked fabulous. She was wonderful,” said Joanne Bloomstein. “She seemed happy to be here.”
“She said, ‘Hi, how are you, what’s your name,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Samantha said.
“It was just amazing. She was so gracious,” said Montclair resident Shefali Raina. “It was really nice to engage with her.”
“I always believed in her, but this is over the top,” said Montclair resident Beth Adleman, showing reporters her autographed copy.
By 8:30 p.m., the last people in line had turned the corner onto Fairfield Street.