Donald Trump’s visit to Detroit black church greeted by protest and prayer

Republican nominee addresses service at Great Faith Ministeries church, leading protesters to decry pandering while parishioners come away impressed

Donald Trumps visit to a black church in Detroit met with palatable disgust among protesters and activists on Saturday, but won praise from parishioners who attended the service at the Great Faith Ministries church on the citys west side.

A sea of protesters and a heavy police presence surrounded the church, as local residents along Grand River Avenue looked on. Chants of No Trump, go home Trump were raised by about 75 people in a march organized by local pastors and activists.

The visit by the Republican presidential nominee came just two weeks after a speech to business tycoons in downtown Detroit was nearly derailed by activists who continually interrupted him.

Tony Minetee, who grew up near the church, called the scene on Saturday a circus.

Trump is an idiot, and hes pandering, said Minetee, 48. After months of harsh campaign rhetoric from the former reality TV star, Minetee said his effort to court the African American vote was almost incredible. You cant just talk to people like that and think its going to just smooth over, he said.

Rick McGowan, 62, carried a sign with a caricature of Trump that deemed him unstable in all his ways.

I disagree with Donald Trump on everything that he says, he said.

The Trump campaign would not allow the Guardian inside the church, as different aides said it was a closed event or said no press would be permitted at all. Events inside the church were, however, broadcast on television. As the service began, shortly after 11am, Trump shook hands with members of the congregation, then took a seat in the churchs front row, swaying back and forth to music.

To mild applause, Bishop Wayne T Jackson noted that the Republican nominee was in the crowd.

This is his first African American church hes been in, yall, said Jackson, laughing and noting that the service would be a little different to those of the Presbyterian church to which Trump is accustomed.

After Jackson spoke about the need for love and called on parishioners to hug and love each other, Trump could be seen hugging and greeting churchgoers himself. He posed for selfies and held up a baby.

Trump had not been expected to address the congregation, having sat beforehand for a privately taped interview with Jackson that was due to be edited and published later on Saturday. In the event, he said he would read some remarks he had written several days earlier.

Trump is not known for his strong Christianity: asked last year at an evangelical event in Iowa if he had ever sought Gods forgiveness, he said that he had not. Accordingly, he has struggled among white evangelical voters. In Detroit, his speech was heavily focused on faith and the importance of black churches through US history.

Reading from a script and adopting a milder tone than that familiar from campaign rallies and debates, the billionaire businessman said: Were all brothers and sisters and were all created by the same God. We must love each other and support each other and were in this all together.

I fully understand that the African American community is suffering from discrimination and there are many wrongs that must still be made right. They will be made right. I want to make them right.

Its from the pews and pulpits [and] Christian teachings of black churches all across this land that the civil rights movement lifted up its soul and lifted up the soul of our nation.

There is perhaps no action our leaders can take that would do more to heal our country and support our people than to provide a greater platform to the black churches and churchgoers.

Trump also noted that the Republican party was the party of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, who defeated the slave-owning Confederacy in the civil war and signed the emancipation proclamation.

Becoming the nominee of the party of Abe Lincoln has been the greatest honor of my life, said Trump. It is on his legacy that I hope to build the future of the party, but more importantly the future of the nation.

Trump did not focus on crime and law and order, as he has done when speaking to white audiences, or touch on police violence against the black community, gun violence or mass incarceration major African American issues that the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, has discussed on the campaign trail. Instead, he focused on jobs.

Im here today to learn so that we can together remedy injustice in any form and so that we can remedy economics so that the African American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and many different ways, he said.

Detroits only gone through bankruptcy once



figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> Protesters march outside the church. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Outside, protests continued. A group of clergy from across metropolitan Detroit denounced Trumps visit. The Rev Lawrence Glass said Trumps message to the black community and minorities asking what do you have to lose through a vote for the Republican was not genuine.

What do we have to lose? Glass said. How about voting rights, civil rights, human rights?

The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, also criticised Trumps decision to speak in his city and attacked the businessman on economic lines. At a press conference, in a restatement of remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July, Duggan said: The difference between Donald Trump and Detroit is Detroits only gone through bankruptcy once.

The city is attempting to leave behind the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. In his speech to the Detroit Economic Club last month, Trump sought to use the city as an illustration of Democratic party policies that he said produced silenced victims. Duggan noted key improvements, particularly falling rates of homicide and unemployment.

Detroits police chief, James Craig, told reporters at the church he had spoken to Trump for about 30 seconds, and said the Republican nominee told him: Thanks for making us safe. As of 11.45am no arrests had been made, Craig said. Activists claimed a womans shoulder was broken by a police officer during a brief confrontation prior to the service.

When events inside the church were over, attendees said Trump had received a warm welcome. Frank Bailey, 69, had driven in from Farmington Hills, a suburb about 20 miles north-west of the city. He said he enjoyed the service, having been concerned about how Trump would be received, due to his low polling among African Americans.

I think at the beginning [of the service] it was slow, but the more he talks and the more he said and the more genuine he seemed to become, I guess, I felt that they really warmed up to him, he said.

Jacquelyn Rhodes, a pastor at New Light Christian Ministries in Detroit, said Trump offered substantive remarks. A lifelong independent, Rhodes said the visit had bolstered her support for the Republican.

He wasnt my first choice during the primaries, Rhodes said, but I do support Donald Trump. I think he will have a plan for jobs. I think thats what we need most of all in the city of Detroit. The economy needs to be improved, and the city has been run by mostly Democrats over the years, and I feel that the policies that have been enacted have not helped the residents in the city.

Others were not swayed. Cynthia Price, a Detroit resident, said that as a Christian she was supposed to receive everybody in love whether we agree with them or not, adding: I mean, nobody had any animosity toward him, because were all Christians.

Still, Trumps comments had not moved her much. For voting for him? she said. No. Ive never been a Republican thats probably a poor excuse but I havent decided who Im voting for.

Latonya White, another Detroit resident, said Trumps cool demeanor before the congregation had shocked her. She had no plans to vote for him either.

I was expecting to hear his view on whats going on in the black community and I was open to hear what he had to say, White told reporters. And some of the things that he did say, as far as just coming out in the black community, kind of shocked me, Im gonna be honest.

It didnt change my mind, but it did give me an open mindset concerning Donald Trump.

The organisation of the event was somewhat chaotic. The service was publicized as open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, but upon arrival some parishioners found that tickets were needed. On Wednesday, the New York Times obtained <a href=”″ data-link-name=”in” body link” class=”u-underline”>a copy of scripted answers for Trumps taped interview Bishop Jackson, prompting Jackson to say he would change his questions.

Duggan, a Democrat, said Trumps decision to use scripted answers contrasted with his customary portrayal of himself as a maverick. The mayor highlighted one question Jackson intended to ask Are you a Christian and do you believe the Bible is an inspired word of God? and said: Donald Trump cant answer that question to a minister without going through scriptwriters and consultants.

This is the most phony major party candidate Ive seen in my lifetime.

After Trumps address, Jackson presented him with a Jewish Heritage Study Bible, a prayer shawl and a pin. Wrapping Trump in the shawl, Jackson said it was from Israel and added that he had prayed and fasted over it.

Thanking the presidential candidate for his speech, Jackson declared that he had another title for Trump: Preacher.

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