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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 20:28 GMT 21:28 UK
Clinton moves up to Harlem
Former US President Bill Clinton is welcomed to Harlem
The saxophones were out for the former president
Crowds of thousands of well-wishers greeted Bill Clinton on Monday when he opened an office in the historically black New York neighbourhood of Harlem.

"We want Bill!" the crowd shouted, prompting the former US president to respond: "Now I feel like I'm home."

The remark was a recognition of Mr Clinton's enduring popularity among black voters despite a list of scandals during his presidency.

I think he's a wonderful guy, regardless of all the sex scandals - I think he's going to be wonderful for Harlem

Harlem pensioner Marie Douglas
Harlem was not Mr Clinton's first choice for his post-presidential office, but was selected after protests at the high cost of the Manhattan location he originally wanted.

The shift to Harlem, placing him among some of his most loyal supporters, was regarded as a public-relations coup typical of Clinton.

Stand by him

The band played the soul classic "Stand By Me," and actress Cicely Tyson introduced Mr Clinton.

Harlem pensioner Marie Douglas came out to see the former president.

"I just had to be here," she told the Associated Press news agency.

"I think he's a wonderful guy, regardless of all the sex scandals. I think he's going to be wonderful for Harlem."

Panther protest

But not everyone was so enthusiastic.

A number of Black Panthers, a militant African-American group, protested at the event, claiming Mr Clinton's presence would drive up property prices and force long-term residents out.

Mr Clinton acknowledged their concerns.

"I'm glad the property values are going up, but I don't want the small business people to be run off because I'm coming in."

Other protests were focused on the current president. Some people waved signs saying "We were robbed - remember the Florida count."

They were a reference to the legal battle over recounts in the state of Florida last year, where George W Bush was declared the winner.

Mr Clinton's personal office will not actually be ready until September, but staff have moved into the 14th-storey space at 55 West 125th Street, the centre of Harlem's business district.

The ex-president lives in Chappaqua, a suburb of New York, with his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The BBC's Jane Standley
"The community here expects a lot of him"
Bill Clinton, Former President of the United States
"You were always there for me and I will try to be there for you"
Zamgba Browne, The Amsterdam News
"The people of Harlem felt it was a wonderful historic event"
See also:

03 Feb 01 | Americas
Clintons try to defuse gifts furore
26 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton gifts under scrutiny
20 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton pardons 100
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