Donald Trump brought a message of unity to a Saturday service at the non-denominational Great Faith Ministries church in Detroit. Coupled with a promise to address the sad economic state of Detroit, he was warmly received at the church. While it comes a little more than 70 days before the November presidential election, Trump has shown more effort in addressing black Americans than the two Republican candidates who preceded him in 2008 and 2012.
The vast majority of black Americans, according to polling data, plan to vote for Hillary Clinton. By some estimates, about 97 percent of black Americans voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Detroit has been solidly Democratic for decades, too, and at 80 percent has the highest proportion of black citizens of any major metropolitan area in the country.
Trump sat in a front pew in the church, where he took a selfie and dandled a baby above his shoulders. Addressing the congregation, Trump said while reading from prepared remarks, "For centuries, the African-American church has been the conscience of this country. So true." He added, "The African-American faith community has been one of God's greatest gifts to America and its people."
Trump said that it is his hope that his appearance at the church, which came at the invitation of Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries, would “help your voice to reach new audiences in our country." He set out a number of the challenges facing Detroiters and other Americans. "When I see wages falling, people out of work, I know the hardships this inflicts and I am determined to do something about it. I will do something about it," Trump said. "I do get things done, I will tell you. I'm going to get things done."
Saying that the United States is "too divided," Trump offered: "We talk past each other and not to each other. And those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what's going on. I'm here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so that we can also remedy economics so that the African-American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and so many other different ways."
He said that he seeks to make Detroit the “economic envy of the world,” and said that he would focus on creating jobs to benefit all Americans. "I believe we need a civil rights agenda for our time," said Trump, before he concluded by citing 1 John 4:12: "”No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us,’" Trump said. He added, "That's so true."
After his remarks, the pastor of the church, Bishop Wayne Jackson, placed a Jewish prayer shawl over Trump's shoulders and gave him a Jewish Heritage Study Bible. The congregation erupted into applause.
"This is a prayer shawl straight from Israel. Whenever you're flying from coast to coast -- I know you just came back from Mexico and you'll be flying from city to city -- there is an anointing. And anointing is the power of God," Jackson said. "It's going to be sometimes in your life that you're going to feel forsaken, you're going to feel down, but the anointing is going to lift you up. I prayed over this personally and I fasted over it, and I wanted to just put this on you."
CNN reported that Eric Jones, a black man who supports Trump, was stalked by about twelve black protesters. Some called him a “sellout” while others uttered obscenities. Jones told CNN that he had met with a similar reaction at the Republican National Convention.
An elderly white woman, who did not wish to identify herself, who wore a ball cap emblazoned with “Trump” told Spero News that she had been “shoved and pushed” by black protesters. She said she was frightened and sought to leave. She added that two “black gentlemen escorted me to safety.” Later, shortly before Trump left the church, Spero News observed that the same woman was actively accosted by a black female protester who shouted “Go home to your city! We’ll kick your ass! You don’t need to be here!” The elderly woman scurried to safety as a police officer held back a crowd and calmed frayed nerves.
Dozens of protesters assembled outside of the church. Some carried pre-printed signs that read "No homophobia in the White House", "No white supremacy in the White House," and "No anti-Semitism in the White House." Briefly, a group of protesters tried to mount a barrier outside of the church in an effort to enter. While protesters shouted "We want to go to church!" police on foot and horseback held them back. Some shouted "If you sit on your rump, you'll get Trump!" and "Stop arguing! Just vote!"
Spero News interviewed Keith Johnson, former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, who put into a nutshell a principal issue facing voters this fall. Johnson said that the next president will likely nominate three justices to the Supreme Court. "So whether you are talking about the rights of women, whether you're talking about Roe v. Wade, whether you're talking about collective bargaining, whether you're talking about civil rights issues, whoever is the next president will be able to put his or her footprint on the future of America.' During an interview with Spero News, Johnson decried what he called the "anti-Semitism" Trump's campaign, even while acknowledging that Trump's daughter, Invanka, is a convert to Judaism and married to a Jew. "Family trumps, if you'll pardon the expression, religious affiliation," said Johnson.
Among the protesters, there was a group of approximately one dozen Trump supporters. One of them was Joanelle Edgars, an immigrant from Liberia. She told Spero News that she came to the United States to find opportunity. She said Trump offers Americans a change in course that was not evident during the eight years of the Obama administration.