Donald Trump praised for 'coming to the hood' in Philadelphia
Published 02/09/2016 | 23:06
Donald Trump is being praised by a group of supporters for coming to "the hood" to meet with local black leaders in Philadelphia.
Calvin Tucker, a local Republican leader, thanked Mr Trump at the end of a meeting "for being brave enough to come" to North Philadelphia.
Renee Amoore, a local business leader, said Mr Trump has support in the community, despite polls showing otherwise.
She told him: "People say, Mr Trump, that you have no African-American support. We want you to know that you do."
She added that: "Pennsylvania has your back, and Philly in particular."
Ms Amoore said: "You are the man", and thanked him for "coming to the 'hood'."
Mr Trump was met with tears and gratitude as he sat with African-American supporters, including the mother of a young woman who was killed by a man living in the US illegally.
The back-to-back meetings, held in a ballroom in Northwest Philadelphia, underscored the balancing act the Republican nominee is playing as he tries to expand his support in the race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
While Mr Trump works to broaden his appeal among more moderate and minority voters, he is also working to maintain his popularity with his core GOP base by pressing his hard-line views on immigration.
At the invitation-only roundtable discussion, he was warmly received by the group, including Daphne Goggins, a local Republican official, who wiped away tears as she introduced herself, saying she had been a Republican most of her life but "for the first time in my life, I feel like my vote is going to count".
But Mr Trump's meeting also highlighted the challenges he faces making inroads with African-Americans and Latinos. Protesters gathered in front of the building and a coalition of labour leaders met nearby to denounce his outreach to black voters as disingenuous and insulting.
Ryan Boyer, of the Labour District Council, said Mr Trump "has no prescription to help inner-city America".
"The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour," said Mr Boyer, speaking at the council's headquarters. "He did nothing for African-Americans in 30 years of public life. We reject his notion that we have nothing to lose by supporting him."
Next stop for Mr Trump is Detroit tomorrow, where black people make up some 83% of the population. He is expected to visit a church with a predominantly black congregation while there.
In addition to planning trips to urban centres, Mr Trump has re-vamped his campaign pitch to include a direct appeal to African-Americans and Hispanics, making the case that decades of Democratic policies have failed them.
"You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs," he recently argued.
But so far, his outreach has largely fallen flat. Many minority voters have found Mr Trump's dire description of their lives to be condescending - and African American community leaders have dismissed his message, delivered largely in front of predominantly white rally audiences - as more intended to reassure undecided white voters that he is not racist than actually help communities of colour.
Public opinion surveys show Mrs Clinton polling far ahead of Mr Trump with minority voters.
Mr Trump also continued to take a hard-line stance on immigration, which he highlighted once again today. The New York billionaire met Shagla Hightower, whose daughter, Iofemi, was killed along with two friends in a 2007 attack in a Newark, New Jersey school yard.
In an emotional exchange, Ms Hightower said her daughters' killers "should have never been here" and praised Mr Trump for giving her daughter recognition. "I truly, truly thank you from the bottom of my heart," she said.
He has been featuring parents whose children have been killed by people living in the US illegally at his events to try to underscore the risk they pose.
Ms Hightower's is "a horrible story", Mr Trump said, "but it's a story a lot of people are going through". He added that Mrs Clinton "has no clue and doesn't care".