Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump was in Detroit on Saturday, where he attended worship service at Great Faith Ministries International Church on the city’s west side. Trump was a guest of Great Faith’s Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, who was also scheduled to interview Trump on Detroit-based Impact Network, the country’s only African American-founded, owned, and operated Christian broadcast television network.
Trump’s visit to the church had been much publicized, as he wanted to address African Americans, a move that he hopes will motivate black voters to vote for him in November’s General Election. Most polls have Trump’s number of black-voter support hovering around one or two percent.
While Trump was making his case to be President of the United States at Great Faith, to a cordial congregation of worshippers, outside the church walls the atmosphere and feelings for Trump were much different. Hours before the 11 am church service began, protesters, close to 800 people, had gathered outside to loudly voice their disdain for Trump’s presence in the city and at the black church, as well as his overall presidential bid and platform. There were dozens of signs and banners of protest, some of which read: “Dump Trump,” “What do we have to lose? Our dignity,” “Moms Against Trump,” “Trump is a racist,” and more.
Among the many protesting groups voicing their objections were The Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity (CBPDV), a group of predominately black Baptist pastors and leaders whose mission is to nurture, develop, train, and support area pastors/ministers, while rendering leadership that address community and social issues. The group held an outside press conference.
“As faith leaders, we understand the importance of moral leadership, treating others as we want to be treated, setting an example for our children, and speaking out for the marginalized,” said Pastor Lawrence C. Glass Jr., CBPDV’s president. “As it relates to Donald Trump’s bid to become President of the United States, we must speak out and make sure that bigotry is replaced with decency in our politics. Morality is paramount. The President of the United States must lead by example. There is no place for “do as I say and not as I do’ rhetoric.”
Glass continued. “Will the leader of the United States of America, whose motto is ‘In God We Trust,’ stand on the principles of the Almighty? If so, racism, bigotry, misogyny, hate speeches, sexism, divisiveness, threats, a call to do harm, discrimination, bullying, and fear mongering have no place in the White House in the greatest country in the world.”
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with DBPDV at the outdoor press conference were other spiritual leaders representing diverse faiths and religions throughout metro Detroit.
“Donald Trump as our president would take us in a very dangerous direction for our nation,” said Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, from the Dearborn Heights –based Islamic House of Wisdom. “We are worried about Donald Trump supporting racism, worried about Donald Trump being a cancer that will promote xenophobia. We are worried that his rhetoric is dividing us, instead of talking about the real issues such as poverty, improving family conditions, building better schools in Detroit, taking on the issues of drugs and so many other problems. Donald Trump is talking about building walls, when he should be talking about building unity and human rights. We cannot support a candidate to be our president, who promotes bigotry and insults to all minority groups.”
While there were loud and emotional cheers for the all speakers, perhaps one of the most riveting moments amid the protesters was when a large group of people, led by Rev. Horace Sheffield III, marched in unity up to the barrier that the Detroit Police Department had set up at the entrance of the church’s parking lot. The group had marched about 10 blocks from the DABO/Horace Sheffield, Jr. Center to the church.
As the group stopped and chanted at the barrier, four Detroit police officers, on horses, waded into the crowd to keep people from advancing onto the church’s grounds.
“At first I thought back to the 1960s, when I used to see white officers on horses trample and beat black protesters in Selma and Birmingham,” said Clayton R. Smith, Sr., who said he migrated to Detroit from Alabama in the early 1970s. “The four white officers on horses in that crowd were unnecessary.”
“Bringing in the horses were uncalled for,” said Sheffield. “One young lady was hit by a horse and her shoulder was broken. That’s an issue that we have.”
Sheffield also reflected on Donald Trump and the presidential candidate’s visit to the church.
“To have this type of scripted event at this church is appalling,” he said. “If Donald Trump wants to really engage the black community, then the black community should be a part of what’s going on here. However, I ‘m glad to see so many people (protesters) show up. But I could never envision a pastor of any church telling people that they needed tickets to come to a church service. My ticket was paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of our martyrs like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the blood of those four little girls killed in the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. But, we will continue to mobilize to dump Trump.”