BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The world is watching Birmingham this weekend for the visit of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and one of the most well known people on the planet.
The Dalai Lama is beloved by many, but he’s also a polarizing figure and protestors will be here to greet him.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell says the Dalai Lama is very familiar with the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The mayor is extremely excited about having the foreign dignitary in town, which just so happens to be the same weekend as the Magic City Classic.
Security preparations for the huge influx of visitors at Legion Field and those who want to see the Dalai Lama is taking a major investment in manpower from the Birmingham Police Department.
The City of Birmingham is planning to welcome the Dalai Lama with open arms, but he will also be met by protests. He is expected to make stops at UAB, Regions Field, and the 16th Street Baptist Church, but the exact details of his trip and the city’s security plan are being kept secret.
“You know you might have somebody that just wants to know a little bit more detail and might have something else on their mind. And so we want to make sure we don’t release that as far as every dotted I and every crossed T for what we’re doing specifically this weekend,” said Lt. Sean Edwards.
“I was awestruck when I first met him, but he has such a personality, such a nice personality, he puts everyone at ease who’s around him,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell. “This is his first time being in the Southeast ever. He’s never been to the southeast before and we are honored to have him coming to Birmingham.”
Between the Dalai Lama’s visit and the Magic City Classic, Lt. Edwards says at least 90% of Birmingham’s police force will be on duty, and they won’t be alone.
“The FBI, the Department of State, again they will probably take the lead. The majority of our individuals have received training and you know this planning takes place eight months to a year out,” said Lt. Edwards. “A lot of people are going to be on deck that day.”
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