Trump launches black voter initiative with message of economic growth

President Donald Trump plugged his economic agenda in a campaign-style event for African-American voters, saying their support is an important part of his 2020 re-election bid.

“We’ve done more for African-Americans in three years than the broken Washington establishment has done in 30 years,” Trump told roughly 400 supporters Friday during the Black Voices for Trump launch in Atlanta.

Criminal justice reforms, low unemployment, tax cuts and support for military veterans and law enforcement were among the points the president and his supporters raised throughout the event at the Georgia World Congress Center. They said Trump and other Republicans have focused on policies that benefit African-Americans while Democrats have championed issues that benefit others, such as immigrants entering the country illegally.

“Under Democratic politicians, African-Americans have become forgotten — literally forgotten — Americans,” the president said. “Under my administration, they’ve become forgotten no longer.”

Trump has plenty of room to improve support among black voters. Just 8% of them cast ballots for him nationwide in 2016. And a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that only 4% of African Americans think Trump’s actions and policies have benefited black people.

Angeline Payne, who lives in South Fulton, said she attended the event to support Trump and “rally and recruit” black voters. More African-American’s need to get engaged in politics and stop letting others tell them how to vote, she said.

“If you live in America, you’re involved,” Payne, 58, said. “So, you should get educated. Find out about the parties where the parties came from, how they represent you, and then make a decision on what party you want to be and don’t let somebody tell you what party you’re in.”

Payne, who teaches financial literacy, says when voters aren’t engaged they just align with a party by default, “And if you’re not looking at the other side and seeing what they’re doing, do you really want to be represented by that?”

Some Trump supporters remained outside after the event reached capacity. And some got into shouting matches with about 150 protesters who marched from Centennial Park.

Earlier in the day, a group of Democratic legislators blasted the president’s latest play for black voters and insisted that their party is best positioned to meet the needs of communities of color.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, the Atlanta-based chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Trump was bringing his “backwards agenda to Georgia to pretend like his actions haven’t been a disaster for the black community and marginalized communities across this entire country.”

“In Georgia, we know better on issues from healthcare, to criminal justice, to education to basic respect, Donald Trump has failed to be a president for all Americans, especially Americans from marginalized background,” Williams said. “Donald Trump’s administration has made an all out assault on people of color.”

Although Trump’s event was targeted at black voters, the audience was racially mixed with many of Georgia’s Republican leaders in attendance. Gov. Brian Kemp, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, Buddy Carter and Jody Hice were all in the building.

The crowd was also dotted with local black conservatives. Among the attendees is Herman Cain, the former presidential hopeful; Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King Jr.; and Melvin Everson, a former state legislator.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the only black member of Trump’s Cabinet, introduced him at the event. Carson said Trump is not perfect but should be judged by his actions in office.

“The president believes a rising tide lifts all boats,’ Carson said. “He doesn’t believe in identity politics and that’s why he’s doing things that work for everybody.”

The event served as a reunion of sorts for black Trump supporters from across the nation. Trump advisor Katrina Pierson named over a dozen states she said attendees hailed from, including Georgia, Texas, Florida and Ohio. “You forgot Arkansas!” some folks shouted after her.

David Solomon, who lives in Miami, said he supports Trump because he champions conservative causes like school choice ending abortion. He said he plans to ask other African-Americans to question whether their support of Democratic candidates has led to improvements in their neighborhoods.

“It’s not so much, ‘go with Donald Trump,’ but why not try something different?” he said. “We’ve already given you a shot for 50-some-odd years, and what have they done for us?”

Bria Felicien contributed to this report.

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