Residents of Flint, Michigan, have a message for Donald Trump ahead of his scheduled visit to the city Wednesday afternoon: He’s not welcome there.
Community members and representatives of the water crisis activist group Flint Rising slammed the Republican presidential nominee’s visit as nothing more than a photo opportunity.
Others noted Trump’s ongoing silence on the water crisis, which started more than two years ago. Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO labor federation, had a blunt question for the brash businessman on this point.
“Donald Trump, I have one question for you and it’s a simple one: Where the hell have you been?” he said. “Here we stand, less than 60 days out from a presidential election and now Donald Trump wants to roll in town for a photo op? Give me a break.”
The union and residents held the brief press conference Wednesday morning outside the city’s water plant, the same location Trump is slated to visit on his tour of Flint.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver told CBS Detroit Trump’s visit “baffled” her and noted his campaign did not contact her ahead of time with a request to meet. He didn’t even giver her a heads-up about the visit, she added.
Weaver took the breach in protocol as a slight and will not be in town when Trump arrives. She also questioned the timing of his visit.
“I wish that he had come when things were in more dire straits – maybe before we had even received help — when the debates were going on,” she told CBS. “We were crying out for a long time.”
Trump has struggled badly in the polls among black voters. In recent weeks, he’s taken to briefly visiting places such as Detroit, Michigan, and northern Philadelphia which, like Flint, have predominately black populations.
Pastor Rigel Dawson of Flint’s North Central Church of Christ said at Wednesday’s presser that the city needs a clean water solution, not “empty promises or the crisis co-opted for the furthering of political agendas.”
Activists and residents also criticized Trump’s politics as ones that would be uniquely bad for Flint.
"My message today is pretty clear: Donald Trump, go home." Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO
“His whole campaign has been about trying to run government like a business because he’s a businessman,” said Gerald Kariem, director of the United Auto Workers Region 1D. “Flint’s emergency manager marginalized the citizens of Flint for the sake of the bottom line. That’s what caused the crisis: running Flint like a business.”
Kariem noted that while Trump claims he wants to bring jobs to the area, it was only last month that he talked of closing down auto factories in Michigan and then lowering the wages as part of a scheme to rotate jobs around the country to get workers used to working for less.
He directly quoted Trump’s Aug. 12 interview with the Detroit News:
“You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle — you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less.”
“Past behavior is still a predictor of future actions,” Kariem said.
Bieber said if Trump truly cared about Flint ― “and if he’s really as rich as he says he is” ― he’d write a check for the families affected by the water crisis on the spot.
“Donald Trump doesn’t give a rip about Flint, all he cares about is getting elected,” Bieber said, adding:
“My message today is pretty clear: Donald Trump, go home. Flint is a tough, resilient city filled with people who have been knocked down and got up again. You’re not welcome here.”