DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Area clergy are denouncing a visit by Donald Trump to a Detroit church as the Republican presidential candidate hopes to convince black voters to cast their ballots for him.
Trump is scheduled to attend a service at Great Faith Ministries International on Saturday morning. He was invited by pastor Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, who also is expected to interview Trump in private for the pastor’s Christian television network.
Protesters waited for Trump outside the church Saturday, where some tried to push through a barrier to the parking lot but were stopped by church security and police.
Rev. Horace Sheffield who led a march from his church blocks away said: “I walked up to the gate and said I was going to church. I was immediately confronted and was told I needed a ticket. You need a ticket to get in church? Anybody who is in this church should be appalled. I love Bishop Wayne T, but to not let the public in?”
Among the members of the clergy denouncing Trump’s visit was the Rev. Lawrence Glass, who said Trump’s heart was not into helping blacks. Glass said Trump represents “politics of fear and hate” and that “minorities of all kinds have much to lose taking a chance on someone like” Trump.
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,” she said.
Meantime, supporters like Debbie LaRoche said she came out because she believes in Trump.
“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.
Ahead of Trump’s appearance, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence joined forces to speak against Trump’s candidacy. Both are concerned Trump is using Detroiters as props in his new image campaign rather than having actual conversations with residents.
“Remember when Jeb Bush said you can’t insult your way to the Republican nomination? Well, (Trump) proceeded to insult Muslims and Hispanics and immigrants and prisoners of war, you remember (he said) ‘I don’t like veterans who have been captured,'” said Duggan.
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