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USA: Donald Trump criticizes Joe Biden over inflation and crime in Detroit church to woo black voters

Donald Trump traveled to a city that few Republican presidential candidates visit on Saturday (local time): the city of Detroit. There he took part in a town hall forum that is part of the campaign to lure black voters away from President Joe Biden ahead of the November election.

Trump's appearance at a black church attracted a mix of curious locals and diehard supporters, but there were few protests.

Both Trump and Democrat Biden see Michigan as a must-win state where every vote can make a difference. The Trump campaign argues that there is an opportunity there to win over black voters, especially men who might be attracted to the former president's economic and border protection policies.

But Detroit is also a place that Trump denigrated as “corrupt” four years ago when he argued that the 2020 election results there could not be trusted.

At 180 Church on the west side of the city, Trump sat on the stage at a table flanked by a group of local community members, including small business owners and activists. The event was moderated by U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, a contender for Trump's vice presidential nomination.

Trump focused on his core messages, sharply attacking the Biden administration for high inflation, crime and illegal migration, which he said had particularly harmed black Americans.

“They're coming into your community and taking your jobs. We've got to get them out,” Trump said, without providing any evidence.

Trump said crime is “most prevalent here, in African-American communities,” adding that “the black population wants the law enforced more than any other.”

He also promised to revive Detroit's local auto industry by imposing tariffs on vehicles built in Mexico and elsewhere.

The church's senior pastor, Lorenzo Sewell, praised Trump's performance and compared him to Barack Obama, America's first black president.

“President Obama never came to the area. So thank you,” Sewell said.

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Wearing a T-shirt that read “Make Black America Great Again,” Sewell spent the hours before the event directing attendees and helping them find parking in the poor neighborhood surrounding the church.

The event felt different from a typical Trump rally. While some passionate, MAGA-cap-bedecked supporters waited for hours to get in, the line numbered in the hundreds, not thousands, and some attendees said they stumbled upon the stage just by chance.

When the event began, the church was not full. It had a mixed crowd of blacks and whites.

The street in front of the church was blocked off by police, but there were no protests in sight. A dental clinic on the corner tried to take advantage of the crowd. An employee held up a sign that read: “Make your smile beautiful again.”

When asked if she was happy that Trump was here, the employee replied: “I'm happy when anyone comes here.”

Angelo Brown, 61, of southwest Detroit, said he wanted to see Trump “up close” and was undecided between Biden and Trump.

“I'm still listening. I want to see more focus on America, our school system and our health care system,” Brown said.

“I would like to see them solve the immigration problem and not just argue about it,” he said.

Tamika Markham, 46, of Detroit, said she was prepared to vote for Trump. “You never know,” she said.

“We're just getting by,” Markham said of her and her teenage son. “It's hard for a lot of people. I see a lot of people struggling.”

Not everyone in the neighborhood was happy to see Trump.

Mae Thomas rolled down the window of her SUV as she drove past the scene in front of the church and said she had been a lifelong Democrat and would vote for Biden.

A short visit by Trump to Detroit would not convince her, Thomas said. As president, he did nothing for her community.

“If he came to me now and did something for our neighborhood, made everything nicer, then it would be different, then we could talk about it,” she said. “But I haven't seen any improvement in the neighborhood just by coming in.”

A MOUNTAIN CLIMB?

Trump was found guilty last month in New York on 34 counts of participating in a plot to cover up his payments during the 2016 election to a porn star with whom he allegedly had an affair. He also faces additional charges of meddling in the 2020 election and alleged misuse of classified documents.

Later Saturday, he was scheduled to speak in Detroit at a conference hosted by Turning Point Action, a right-wing advocacy group that could play a major role in driving away Trump voters.

While some black voters have expressed support for Trump, his efforts to mobilize them have met with resistance.

Trump has made a number of inflammatory and racist statements over the years that have drawn fierce criticism.

Last year, Trump called on his supporters to “watch the election” in cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta – all Democratic strongholds with large black populations.

Black Americans are believed to have helped Biden secure the White House in 2020, but recent polls suggest that support has waned somewhat among black voters, historically considered the Democratic Party's most loyal voting bloc.

Trump's visit to Detroit is unlikely to result in a noticeable shift in black support, experts told Reuters. But the visit could appeal to centrist Republicans and independent voters who would like to see him build a broader coalition beyond his loyalists.

Among registered black voters, Biden was ahead of Trump by 57 percent in a Reuters/Ipsos poll in May, with 16 percent saying they weren't sure who they would vote for, 8 percent named another candidate and 7 percent not planning to vote at all.

The Biden team is stepping up its efforts in Michigan, where Biden defeated Trump by 2.7 percentage points in 2020.

Biden spoke at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dinner in Detroit last month, while Vice President Kamala Harris visited the state this week.

Local Democratic officials, including Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, held a press conference ahead of Trump's event on Friday, condemning his visit and claiming another Trump presidency would harm black people in America.

“We cannot take a step back into a Trump reality that is so narrowly focused on everyone but us,” Gilchrist said.

Published by:

Prateek Chakraborty

Published on:

June 16, 2024