Baltimore Girds for Trump’s Visit

Phil Ateto of the Backbone Campaign, a member of the Baltimore Welcoming Committee, speaks to reporters Wednesday outside the hotel where Republican members of Congress will gather for a three-day retreat. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

The Baltimore Welcoming Committee’s message for President Trump and Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who hit town today for a three-day gathering, isn’t very… well… welcoming.

“We stand against racism, xenophobia, fascism,” Cristi Linn, the group’s lead organizer, told a reporter after a news conference on Wednesday outlining some of the protests scheduled to take place in the city over the next three days.

“We also stand against classism. We stand against the wealth divide. We stand against the denial of science. We all stand for the rights of immigrants to seek asylum here.”

The committee is a loose-knit group of left-leaning organizations that oppose Trump and GOP agenda. Often they aren’t too keen on many Democratic officeholders and policies, either.

The 2019 House Republican Conference Retreat takes place at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Harbor East Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The president will address the group during a Thursday dinner session, according to the House GOP.

The annual retreat was originally scheduled for January at a resort in West Virginia but was postponed due to the federal government shutdown.

While Trump has spoken at previous House GOP retreats, this will be his first visit to Baltimore since he became president – and comes after he launched a week-long Twitter tirade in July, in which he called the city “disgusting, rat and rodent infested.”

The tweets also included attacks on Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), a powerful committee chairman and persistent Trump critic whose district includes a large portion of the city. Trump charged, without proof or specifics, that millions of dollars in federal aid has been mismanaged by Baltimore leaders.

While issuing warnings that downtown Baltimore traffic could be worse than usual Thursday evening, between the security associated with the president’s visit and an Orioles game scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Camden Yards, official Baltimore seems determined to publicly ignore the spectacle. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) is not expected to address the gathering of lawmakers – or the protests – nor is Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who briefly flirted with a primary challenge against Trump earlier this year.

Young’s official schedule features only an appearance Thursday morning at the 2019 Grandparents Conference hosted by the Baltimore City Health Department in partnership with Morgan State University. Hogan had no public events scheduled as of Thursday morning.

Traffic in downtown Baltimore has already been worse than usual, and the weather forecast for late Thursday afternoon suggests that there is a good chance for thunderstorms.

But the protesters are hoping to make a good bit of noise themselves.

The coalition of protest groups — which includes Anne Arundel Indivisible, Backbone Campaign, Black Leaders Organizing for Change, Extinction Rebellion, ICE Out of Baltimore Coalition, People’s Power Assembly, Represent Maryland, Youth Against Racism and War, and others — has a full calendar of events scheduled to voice their objections to the GOP presence in Maryland’s largest city.

The group’s name, the Baltimore Welcoming Committee, is intentionally ironic – perhaps as ironic as the presence of Trump in the very city he suggested that “no human” would want to call home.

Andre Powell, of the Peoples’ Power Assembly, one of several activists to speak to reporters at Wednesday’s news conference just outside the Marriott hotel, had a message for GOP lawmakers.

“We don’t want you in Baltimore,” he said, “We don’t want your policies in this country. You do nothing but push big-business interests while poor and working people all over the country suffer.”

Dom Serino of Extinction Rebellion warned that “the climate apocalypse is coming.”

“Baltimore is on the front lines of the climate catastrophe,” he said. “Sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay are rising more rapidly than anywhere else on the U.S. Atlantic coast.”

A hotel security guard wandered by briefly, as representatives of the various group spoke, before moving on. Security is bound to be tighter once the GOP confab begins.

Here is a list of protests, according to the Baltimore Welcoming Committee’s Facebook page:

  • “No Racists in Our Streets” rally, 4 p.m. Thursday at the Christopher Columbus statue, Eastern Ave. and President Street.
  • “Can You Hear the People Sing?” labor protest, 5 p.m. Friday, promenade outside the Marriott.
  • LGBTQ+ and allies dance party, Friday, immediately following the labor protest, promenade outside the Marriott.
  • “We Are Baltimore Rally,” 10:30 a.m. Saturday, location to be announced.
  • “Apocalypse is Now” climate demonstration, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, promenade outside the Marriott.

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