Protests greet Trump's Detroit church visit

Michael Gerstein, Jonathan Oosting, and Chad Livengood
The Detroit News

Detroit  -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrived at a black church in Detroit on Saturday greeted by groups of protests from community, religious and labor activists who denounced his visit that is intended to reach out to the African American vote.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addressed the congregation at Greater Faith Ministries International in Detroit on Saturday.

The Rev. Lawrence Glass said during a protest outside the church that Trump’s heart is not in 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.

Another group of pastors were to march in protest to the church.

Some protesters tried to push through a barrier to the church’s parking lot but were stopped by church security and police.

The Saturday visit, which is open to the public, was scheduled as part of Trump’s continued outreach to African-American voters. Native Detroiter Dr. Ben Carson, who is advising Trump after pushing for an end to welfare dependency during his own failed presidential bid, plans to tour a neighborhood with the New York businessman in the city where he grew up after a church service and interview with the Impact Network.

Carson accompanied Trump to Great Faith Ministries International Church on Grand River, where they will attend a morning worship service at 11 a.m. The church’s pastor, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, said he plans to interview Trump privately for a television program on his African-American Christian cable channel, the Impact Network, before the service.

After initially saying the Trump interview would air live, the network said the interview will air Thursday on its cable channel and online at

The network also said in a statement Friday that Trump would greet the audience at the church on Saturday but not address “political matters.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives Saturday at Greater Faith Ministries International.

The New York Times reported Thursday it obtained a draft of a script of Trump’s answers to Jackson’s questions that had been submitted in advance. The controversy was generated when the Times also reported, citing an unnamed source, that some Trump aides would work with the network to edit the taped interview “so that the final version reflected the campaign’s wishes.”

But Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller said Friday the campaign would not edit the final transcript.

Jackson also vehemently denied Friday that Trump’s campaign would edit the interview or the transcript.

“This has never been discussed with me,” he told CNN. “... Once we have the interview, we will show it raw, like it is.”

The network also confirmed in its statement Friday that Trump would not control a final edit of the interview and its production team would handle “filming, editing and distributing the final piece.”

The New York Times published three excerpted questions and Trump’s prepared answers in its Thursday report.

Because of this, Jackson said Friday he is changing the questions and that the Trump campaign won’t see them in advance. He said it is important for the African-American community to get answers from the New York businessman about controversial statements he has made and the perception about him in the community.

Jackson said he told a New York Times reporter about submitting the questions in advance and didn’t have any qualms because he had once submitted a planned invocation to the White House.

“I didn’t see anything wrong with it,” Jackson told CNN.

The Times reported that aides for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton occasionally request interview questions in advance.

Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel downplayed the New York Times report, calling Trump “the most unscripted and accessible” candidate in the race.

“He’s coming to Detroit to say I’m here to fight for your vote,” she said. “And the media, instead of reporting on the fact that all voters should be fought for by both parties, is focused on the fact that perhaps he got some questions ahead of an interview.

“Why aren’t we talking about the fact that Hillary Clinton has not held a press conference in 272 days, that she comes to Detroit and vets her audience, that she is completely inaccessible?”

But Virgie Rollins, Black Caucus chairman of the Democratic National Committee, blasted Trump’s scheduled church appearance.

“It’s insulting and offensive that Donald Trump thinks one church appearance will undo the divisive undertone of his campaign,” said Rollins, a native of Benton Harbor. “He’s played to misleading stereotypes about people of color, courted white nationalists with a wink and a nod, and up until now he has refused to speak in front of a black audience.”

Confusion continued to mount Friday about what exactly Trump will do in Detroit on Saturday. The real estate developer will address the congregation for five to 10 minutes after his taped interview, Miller said, and then tour parts of Detroit with Carson. The exact locations weren’t disclosed.

But Jackson told CNN there is “not going to be a speech to the congregation.” It is possible that Trump will do like other politicians have done at Greater Faith Ministries and greet the congregation after the service, he said.

For now, there are no plans for Trump to take questions from the congregation, which has angered some African-American leaders.

“I don’t think he ought to be afforded a photo op, that he ought to be forced to answer some hard questions about what he’s going to do to improve the lives of the people of 48204,” said the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, a politically active Detroit pastor.

Sheffield is organizing a 10 a.m. protest march Saturday from Grand River and Wyoming to the church near Grand River and Oakman.

In addition, the Community Coalition and the Black Caucus Foundation are inviting people Saturday to get registered to vote at the New Bethel Baptist Church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free food and music are being offered.

“Not surprisingly, Trump’s ignorance on issues like the economy, criminal justice reform, the meaning of quality health care or systemic racism, has forced him to resort to scripted conversations and staged engagements with our communities,” said Marlon Marshall, who is Clinton’s director of state campaigns and political engagement, in a Thursday statement.

Wayne Bradley, who is the deputy state director and African-American engagement director of the Michigan Republican Party, said he was unaware of the New York Times story. But he suggested that in his experience “it’s not atypical for when you do a radio interview or something that someone will ask about the line of questioning.”

There’s always pushback when a Republican comes to Detroit, Bradley said, noting the city’s strong ties to organized labor, but “there are people who want to hear what Trump has to say, and as a voter, you should.”

Still, Trump should meet with other black leaders beyond Saturday’s church visit, said Bradley, who plans to attend the service.

“I hope this is just the beginning of the process,” he said. “But I think this is a good start, to open the dialogue by speaking with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson and start talking with more leaders around the country.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.