As House Republicans gathered in Baltimore on Thursday night to hear from President Donald Trump, protesters outside the retreat venue made clear the president’s disparaging remarks about their city were still on their minds.
Trump in July called the Baltimore-based 7th District of Maryland “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” on Twitter while slamming its longtime congressman, Maryland Democrat Elijah E. Cummings, who is African American.
“It was just a racist, nasty jab at Baltimore,” said Rebecca Redett, a Baltimore native and one of more than hundred protesters gathered at a small park a few blocks from the Marriott Waterfront, site of the GOP’s annual retreat. “We know he doesn’t like Baltimore, he doesn’t like black people, he doesn’t like people of color.”
Some in the crowd held signs referring to the president as a “rat” and telling him to “go back” to where he came from. Others chanted, “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA”
Redett and longtime Baltimore resident Martha Holleman said they came to the protest to show they’re “not OK” with the administration’s policies or the House Republicans who support him.
“I felt it was important to show up for the GOP, to tell them, ‘What the hell, people? You’re just going to let this go on?’ ” Redett said.
“I’ve never lived through anything like this, to feel powerless, and in the face of the deep corruption. So any little action makes me feel better, just showing up here and holding (a) little sign,” Holleman said.
The pair said they are constituents of Cummings, whom Holleman defended as “always around and very, very visible, very committed.”
A coalition of local activist groups under the umbrella of the Baltimore Welcoming Committee has planned demonstrations all three days that House Republicans expect to be in town. The protests are focused on racism, labor organizing, LGBTQ rights and climate change. The group is also planning “anti-corruption light projections” at night around the retreat venue and a Democratic debate watch party Thursday night after Trump’s speech.
Dozens of activists with Casa in Action, a Latino and immigrant rights organization, held huge letters spelling out “ABOLISH ICE” at Thursday’s protest.
“We do not want to continue living in this system of racism, in this system that continue to stereotype all people of color. You want to lift up and fight back,” Abraham Tema told the crowd in Spanish through a translator.
McCarthy defends Trump
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy defended the president’s comments about Baltimore and Cummings at an earlier press conference, saying Trump’s visit spoke for itself.
“I think the president coming here symbolizes, yes, he cares about Baltimore. He cares about the people in Baltimore, and he does not accept that you have to stay in poverty,” the California Republican said.
McCarthy framed Trump’s remarks as an acknowledgment of challenges facing many cities, rather than an attack on a city that is more than 62 percent black and on a congressman who is one of the president’s lead investigators as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
“I think the president made a very good case here,” McCarthy said. “Many major cities have challenges. If you want to take the president’s comments, you can go to the former mayor of Baltimore, you go to what Congressman Cummings has said before about his own community as well. These are challenges we want to see a change to. This is something the president has been working on.”