DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Donald Trump said Saturday he wanted to help rebuild Detroit and told members of a black church that “there are many wrongs that should be made right” as the GOP presidential nominee tried to woo African-Americans two months before the election.
“I am here to listen to you,” Trump told the congregation at the Great Faith Ministries International in remarks that included references to some of his campaign plans. “As I prepare to campaign all across the nation, I will have the chance to lay out my economic plans which will be so good for Detroit.”
Seated in the front row was Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on Trump’s reality television series who has been helping guide his outreach to the black community. Also in the audience was Detroit native Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who ran against Trump in the primaries and is now advising the campaign.
While protesters were a vocal presence outside, Trump made a pitch inside for support from an electorate strongly aligned with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I want to help you build and rebuild Detroit,” he said. “I fully understand that the African-American community has suffered from discrimination and there are many wrongs that should be made right.”
He also said the nation needs “a civil rights agenda of our time,” with better education and good jobs.
Unlike his usual campaign stops where he confidently has addressed mostly white crowds that supported him and his plans for the country, Trump’s visit to Detroit on Saturday was intended to be more intimate.
Some protesters tried to push through a barrier to the parking lot but were stopped by church security and police.
Willie Smith, who was in the crowd of protesters, said Detroit voters see through Trump’s attempt to use them as pawns.
“I believe somebody within his campaign finally got through to him and said, ‘Hey, look, man. You cannot be elected with zero percent of the black vote. It just won’t happen.’ So now he’s reaching out,” Smith told WWJ’s Lauren Barthold. “It won’t work.”
Deatta Wilkinson said she was proud of her fellow Detroiters for showing up to protest Trump.
“We understand that we have a right under the First Amendment to be here as well, so we wanted to greet him and to let him understand that Detroit does not think that we have a place for him in our city,” said Wilkinson.
But not everyone was there to protest Trump. Supporters like Debbie LaRoche said she came out because she believes in the Republican candidate.
“I think that Democrats are scratching their heads trying to figure out, ‘What the — who does he think he is trying to appeal to African Americans?’ That’s so stupid. I mean, African Americans want good jobs too,” said LaRoche.
For Trump, courting black voters is a challenge. Most polls show his support among black voters is in the low single digits. Many blacks view some of his campaign rhetoric as insulting, and racist.
Detroit is about 80 percent black, and many are struggling. Nearly 40 percent of residents are impoverished, compared with about 15 percent of Americans overall. Detroit’s median household income is just over $26,000 — not even half the median for the nation, according to the census.
The city’s unemployment rate has dropped, but is still among the highest in the nation. And public school students have lagged behind their peers on statewide standardized tests.
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