FLINT – Donald Trump’s arrival in Flint Wednesday for brief stops at the Water Treatment Plant and Bethel United Methodist Church provoked an impassioned response from local community organizations and residents.
A press conference was held hours before Trump had landed in Bishop International Airport by community allies and Flint Rising activists to speak on his lackluster response to the water crisis. Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, asked why the candidate never visited the city during the water crisis.
“If he’s really as rich as he says he is, he’ll pull $10 million out of his wallet to fix this crisis,” said Bieber.
Positing Trump as a hero for the working class was also challenged by Bieber and members of the UAW Local 602 present at the conference.
Bieber called Trump’s visit “opportunistic,” saying he will move jobs out of Flint with no intentions to raise the minimum wage.
“This is a union state and a working state,” said Bieber. “Donald Trump would be the most anti-worker president you’ve ever seen.”
Desiree Duell, a Flint Rising activist and local artist, had one of her pieces – “The Water Wall” – on display at the conference, to protest Trump’s proposed plan for a wall to be built at the border of Mexico and the United States.
Robert Waley, Jr, a member of the Local 602 who was present at the Bethel United Methodist Church and water plant, called Trump’s visit “disrespectful” to Flint. Waley streamed the entire event live to his Facebook page.
“He’s causing further injury to the wounds of the people,” said Waley. “Our minds are made up.”
Waley, along with members of the neighborhood and other activist groups, waited behind the police line at the church until Trump arrived. Shouts of “Boo” and “Go Home” could be heard from the protestors.
Michigan People’s Campaign and the Democracy Defense League were two of the groups present alongside Local 602. Carrie Younger Nelson, a volunteer with the DDL, said Trump’s visit was nothing more than a “photo op.”
“We still have this water crisis,” said Nelson.
Claire McClinton, another member of the Democracy Defense League, said any opportunity to raise awareness around the water crisis should be taken. McClinton said residents still wake up every morning needing bottled water, and said it would have already been fixed if politicians were truly concerned.
“We live in a system that is not resolving the problem,” said McClinton.
Some members of the community expressed anger at the Bethel United Methodist Church for hosting Trump. Reverend Faith Green Timmons of the BUMC, in a release to the press, said the church welcomes all people, and it is important to keep the spotlight on Flint.
“Trump’s presence at Bethel United Methodist Church in no way represents an endorsement of his candidacy. What we pray is that it conveys a fine example of a faithful, intelligent, historically African-American congregation at work, serving and volunteering among the people of Flint as we work through this crises of national impact,” said Timmons.
Local pastors and 50 members of the public were allowed in to church meeting, which lasted approximately 30 minutes.