Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
promised African Americans prosperity and jobs on
Saturday in a visit to a black church in Detroit,
he called for a “civil rights agenda of our time”.
“I am here to listen to you,” Trump told the
congregation at the Great Faith Ministries
International. “I am here to learn.”
The former real estate mogul and Reality TV star
has stepped up his appeals to minority voters in
recent weeks, but the visit was the first time Trump
has addressed a largely black audience since
winning the Republican nomination.
While protesters were a vocal presence outside,
Trump made a pitch inside for support from an
electorate strongly aligned with Democrat Hillary
“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
The visit is a high-profile stop in Trump’s recent
bid to offset the overwhelming advantage his rival
Hillary Clinton has among African American voters,
who make up 12 percent of the electorate.
‘Devil’s in the pulpit’
Before the speech, protesters chanting “Dump
Trump” and “We’re going to church” tried to push
through police barriers to gain entrance.
“The devil’s in the pulpit,” shouted Wyoman
Mitchell, one of about 200 protesters who were
pushed back by police on foot and on horseback in
the tense encounter.
“[Trump] didn’t come to hear us, he came to talk
to one of us to tell us what he thinks we ought to
do,” Pastor Lawrence Glass, one of the organisers
of the protest, told Al Jazeera.
“We are protesting against someone who has
proven to have a legacy of bigotry and bullying…
people of color and people of faith are not standing
for Trump and his antics of racial bias.”
Church pastor Bishop Wayne Jackson had invited
the New York billionaire to attend the fellowship
service, and make some remarks.
“We’re told he’ll be there for at least an hour and
a half and then he’s going to record an interview
with the pastor, which will then be edited and
broadcast on a black television channel in a couple
of days,” said Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting
from outside the church.
The church appearance contrasted sharply with
Trump’s previous crude appeals for black support.
“What do you have to lose?” he said, addressing
African Americans in a speech in Ohio less than
two weeks ago to an overwhelmingly white
“They don’t care about you. They just like you
once every four years – get your vote and then
they say: ‘Bye, bye!'” he said.
To bolster his case, Trump points at the
Democratic stance on immigration, claiming his
rival would rather give jobs to new refugees than
unemployed black youth.
The African-American electorate traditionally leans
In 2012, about 93 percent of black voters backed
Obama – an overwhelming enthusiasm that Clinton
appears to have kept alive, taking 90 percent of the
black vote in her primary contest against Bernie
Detroit has the highest percentage of black
residents – more than 80 percent – of any large
Many neighborhoods have been hollowed out by
decades of “white flight,” in which Caucasian
families left downtown and midtown for more
“Our political system has failed the people and
works only to enrich itself. I want to reform that
system so that it works for you, everybody in this
room.” Trump told the audience inside the church.
Democrats regularly remind voters that Trump’s
backers include former Ku Klux Klan leader David
Duke – although the candidate has publicly
rejected the extreme-right endorsement.
They also point out that Trump spearheaded the
dubious “birther” movement, which sought – with
backing from the Republican Party’s right wing – to
cast doubt on the nationality of Obama, America’s
first black president.
Source: Al Jazeera News and agencies