As President Donald Trump tried to woo African-American voters to his campaign during a visit to Atlanta on Friday, several hundred protesters said they wanted to send another message.
More than 200 people, carrying signs that read "Country over party" and "45 is a racist," came to the Georgia World Congress Center from all over the country to decry the president's policies on everything from immigration to health care and skewered him on his comments after the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
“I was in Charlottesville and they were telling me, a black man, that they were getting the ovens started for me,” Carl Dix, an organizer of the protest from New York, told the anti-Trump crowd as they gathered at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. “But he said there were good people on both sides.”
More: Trump launches black voter initiative with message of economic growth
Photos: Donald Trump visits Georgia
More: Here's what 'Black Voices for Trump' supporters are saying about Trump's Atlanta visit
The protest was mostly peaceful, but tempers flared when the president’s opponents encountered a handful of Trump supporters at the GWCC.
Both groups got into each other’s faces and came close to a scuffle. The president’s backers shouted “USA” and tried to argue why he was their choice while protesters insisted Trump needed to be impeached.
“I’m not a Democrat or a Republican,” said Jerrod Brown of Savannah, who got into a heated debate with protesters that Trump should be given a chance because the black community is suffering. “I’m a black man out here trying to learn,” he said.
The president started the day with a morning fundraiser for the re-election of U.S. Sen. David Perdue, but it was the launch of the ““Black Voices for Trump” vote initiative that was the main draw of his visit. He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
Danae Roache, a sophomore at Georgia State University, wasn’t old enough to vote against Trump in his first election, but said she will next time. This morning, after learning of the president’s Atlanta visit, she spent five minutes dashing out her thoughts on a sign: “You can’t have our votes … you can’t have our voices,” she wrote.
The East Cobb native was referring to the name of Trump’s new organization. She said it was “audacious” for him to think he could have the voices of black people.
“He’s done too much, not only to our people, but to other people,” Roach said. “Too much harm, too much hate.”
Austin Reed, a childhood friend of Roache's and also a sophomore at GSU said he doesn't like Trump's demonization of groups, such as Hispanics. "Lies about they're rapists, saying they're murders. And no one I know in that community is like that at all," Reed said.
Trump supporters said they were not deterred by the protests.
Casper Stockham, who is running for Congress in Colorado, was outside the Georgia World Congress Center to make sure passersby knew Trump has support in the black community. He said Trump has brought jobs to his community and has been a champion of prison reform that has freed many black inmates.
“He says some things that are crazy, but guess what, who hasn’t,” Stockham said.
Dix, however, said what the president says does matter. When Trump dismisses women of color in Congress or denigrates countries that are home to predominately black and brown citizens, that means people like them don’t matter to him.
“He looks at predominately black cities like Baltimore and Atlanta and says they are horrible, disgusting places,” he said.