BALTIMORE — Months after President Donald Trump derided the congressional district that includes Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” groups appalled by his attacks plan to protest his expected appearance Thursday before Congressional Republicans on an annual retreat on the city’s waterfront.
Trump’s visit will be limited to a speech to the Republicans at the hotel hosting the event. He is not scheduled to tour any neighbourhoods.
“I think it’s engendered a lot of anger from the people in the city,” protest organizer Sharon Black said about the president’s attacks on the majority African American congressional district.
Black, with the group Peoples Power Assembly, said organizers expect hundreds of protesters to gather about two blocks from the hotel. Other rallies are planned for Friday and Saturday.
Trump’s barrage of tweets began in late July against Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. They included calling its representative, Democrat Elijah Cummings, “racist” and a “brutal bully.” He charged that Cummings’ district is “considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States.”
Cummings has represented Maryland in Congress for decades and currently chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration. His district includes neighbourhoods that have struggled with poverty and crime, but also has more affluent areas and landmarks such as Johns Hopkins University and its hospital and the Social Security Administration.
His office did not respond to a request for comment on the president’s upcoming trip.
Lester Davis, spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, said city officials and the White House did not reach out to each other about a potential tour of the area.
Young said that if Trump travels beyond the city’s Inner Harbor, he will notice “that every neighbourhood is not crime-ridden and dirty.” Meanwhile, City Council president Brandon Scott said he hopes the visit will allow Trump to see some of the infrastructure challenges that the city faces.
“We know he’s been touting bringing infrastructure to Americans who live across the country but has failed to deliver, and those jobs that could be created through that would change the very neighbourhoods that he was disparaging,” Scott said.
Baltimore, a once-gilded American seaport, has undeniable drug and violent crime challenges. The city saw more than 300 homicides in 2018 for the fourth year in a row. It also contends with deep-rooted poverty and swaths of the city are populated with vacant, boarded-up homes.
The family company of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, owns thousands of apartments and townhomes in the Baltimore area and has been criticized for years for the same kind of despair and neglect that the president accused local leaders of failing to address.
While residents have complained about mould, bedbugs, leaks and mice, the Kushner Cos. has said it is proud of its Baltimore-area properties and has worked to maintain a “high quality residential experience for our tenants” by investing “substantial amounts” in upkeep.
Black said the hypocrisy is not lost on people. She said protesters expected to gather Thursday are standing against racism and white supremacy.
“We know this, and the people who live in those buildings know this,” Black said. “These are all trigger words. ‘Go back to where you came from.’ ‘This city is rat infested.’ All these things are really used to ramp up hate and to divide people.”
On Friday, a group of musicians and singers are expected to perform outside the hotel as a way to protest the GOP’s labour platform. The following day, another protest will focus on climate change.
This will be the fifth time that the Republican annual retreat takes place in Baltimore. The Congressional Institute, the organization that hosts the retreat, selected the site for the three-day event earlier this year.
Institute president Mark Strand in a statement said lawmakers will discuss issues including health care, national security and the economy.
Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press