As I watched violence erupt at the University of Illinois at Chicago March 11 between supporters of Donald Trump and those protesting his appearance in that city, I wondered if Trump actually had the stones to come to Baltimore pedaling his political vitriol.
After all, there are many parallels between Baltimore and Chicago; two great American cities grappling with poverty, prodigious violence and homicides, high profile cases of police brutality and pervasive mistrust of law enforcement in communities of color.
As the scenes of pandemonium dominated cable news networks last Friday night, details of Trump’s future campaign plans began to trickle out. He not only planned to speak in Chicago, where 17-year old LaQuan McDonald was murdered by a Chicago police officer, but also in St. Louis (about eight miles from Ferguson, Missouri where unarmed teen Michael Brown was killed by police), and Cleveland, where 12-year old Tamir Rice was gunned down by Cleveland police.
An insidious pattern emerged; Trump went right to the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement to deliver his sermon of thinly veiled race based hate. Now, it seemed perfectly logical — at least in the diabolical mind of Trump — that Baltimore would be a prominent stop on his Make America Hate Again tour (although of course America never stopped hating, just as it never stopped being great).
The word on the street is (subsequently bolstered by credible sources on background) that there is definite interest by members of Maryland’s GOP to bring Trump to Baltimore right around the time of the Maryland Primary on April 26.
Of course April 26 is the date of the Primary, but April 26 is also one day before the one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray’s funeral (April 27) and the subsequent uprising (if you count the fact this is a leap year it would be one year exactly). As someone via social media put it, “I believe this timing is no accident…”
No, it seems very much on purpose. It is well documented Trump encourages violence at his campaign rallies and we saw what happened when 26-year old Rakeem Jones, a Black protester, was leaving one of Trump’s events in North Carolina and was sucker punched by a 78-year old White man named John McGraw, who later told reporters, “He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Now, GOP operatives in the state are allegedly scrambling to get Trump to Baltimore or suburban Maryland in the midst of the one-year anniversary of last April’s uprising.
Can you imagine the spectacle of Trump in Baltimore at that time?
As Trump roams to and fro around the nation, spewing a toxic cocktail of half truths and whole lies, whipping up anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti-Black sentiment, one thing is abundantly clear; he will do and say anything to win. And I believe that includes coming to Baltimore right at the time we are all reflecting on last April’s uprising, and struggling to get beyond the most volatile time in our city’s history, to profit from our misery.
And if Trump does come, and there are protests and violence breaks out as it did in Chicago, I could see him wash his hands like Pontius Pilate and play the victim just as he did in Chicago. I could see him prey upon and exacerbate our tenuous collective psyche, commanding yet another news cycle with virtually no push back from “mainstream media,” at our expense.
To be clear, Donald Trump has the right protected by the Constitution to speak in Baltimore. But, the people who love this city, those willing to transcend political, racial, social, cultural and religious lines for the greater good, have the right to shut him down.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.