PHILADELPHIA – GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump arrived in North Philadelphia on Friday as protesters gathered outside a church venue where he was to meet privately with African-American voters – stirring visible unwelcome for the GOP presidential nominee in the City of Brotherly Love.
Trump arrived in an SUV with a police motorcade down Broad Street, giving a brief wave before entering a back door of The View, a catering hall run by People For People, a nonprofit operated by the Greater Exodus Baptist Church at Broad and Brown.
Before he arrived, Carla Griffin, 54, sat on her front porch at Brown and 13th Streets, wondering how anyone could take seriously his brief dip into Philadelphia.
“He’s an embarrassment. This is a photo opportunity for him,” Griffin said. “This is what politics has been reduced to.”
Supporters of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton meanwhile assembled local leaders – City Council President Darrell Clarke, Council members Helen Gym and Maria Quinones Sanchez, state Rep. Dwight Evans and church pastors – “to discuss Trump’s divisive rhetoric, dangerous agenda and embrace of hate groups,” according to a notice from Clinton’s campaign.
Outside The View, Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif said protestors arrived early, creating signs for a “solidarity march against Trump.”
The Rev. Herb Lusk II, pastor of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church, is a prominent conservative and former adviser to former President George W. Bush. But Lusk said Trump’s event is a rental agreement with the nonprofit, not an invitation from him or his church.
Lusk said he has not decided which candidate to support for president.
“I’m like a lot of Americans who thinks the best candidates are not running,” said Lusk, who told reporters he learned about the Trump event Thursday from the media.
Protesters gathered outside the church hall before noon, some holding signs saying “Slavery made America Great,” a play on Trump’s campaign “Make America Great Again.”
As many as 100 Philadelphia police officers were assembled on North Broad near Fairmount.
Bobby Farms of North Philadelphia said “men of color must be out of their minds” to support Trump. “A tiger can’t change his stripes.”
Erica Mines of the Philadelphia Coalition for Real Justice said her group came out “to let Donald Trump know he’s not welcome in our community.” She said the GOP candidate is only interested in “raping, pillaging and bringing nasty-a – diseases into the community.”
Her group and Juntos, a Latino immigrant advocacy organization, prepared long cloth signs, stenciled with black chain-link and red brick fence designs and the words “#wall off Trump.” In a news release, Juntos spokesman Erika Almiron explained the group would use the sign to “wall off the Trump visit,” a response to “Trump’s insults, threats and his promises of mass deportation and building a border wall . The only walls we need are to wall off hate.”
A brief scuffle developed when a white-haired Bucks County man, Jerry Lambert, held a sign proclaiming “I love walls” – and Khalif snatched it away. After police broke up the confrontation, Lambert said he wanted Khalif arrested for assault.
“I came here to express my First Amendment rights, peacefully,” Lambert told police. “That was not peaceful.” He then took the sign across the street to shout his support for Trump.
Many protestors, including Khalif, called out black leaders who agreed to meet with Trump in the city.
“I can’t even understand why the church would host him here,” said Derwin Ridley, 57, of North Philadelphia.
Two people planning to attend the Trump appearance are James Jones, the Republican nominee for the Second Congressional District, and Deborah Williams, the Republican nominee for the First Congressional District.
James and Williams said they were invited to the Trump event by the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
State and city Republican Party officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Trump campaign declined to comment.
Clinton has cast Trump’s campaign as built on “prejudice and paranoia.”
Trump has been stepping up his outreach to minority voters, repeatedly asking from the podium at campaign rallies, “What do you have to lose?” in supporting his candidacy.
Trump is scheduled to speak Saturday at a predominantly African-American church in Detroit.