Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised African Americans prosperity and jobs on Saturday in a gently delivered speech to a black congregation in a US city famous as a symbol of economic and urban decline.
Setting aside his usual stridency, Trump adopted a humble tone, telling his audience at the Good Faith Ministries International church that he came to listen, expressing sympathy for the out-of-work young men he had seen on boarded-up Detroit streets.
“Nothing is more sad than when we sideline young black men with unfulfilled potential, tremendous potential,” Trump said, speaking from notes.
“Our whole country loses out without the energy of these folks. We’re one nation. And when anyone hurts, we all hurt together,” he said.
Trump was received courteously and rewarded with occasional bursts of applause as he set about trying to allay the deep skepticism of African Americans who have swung overwhelmingly behind his rival, Hillary Clinton.
Blacks account for 12 per cent of the US electorate, and Trump, who trails in the polls, recently has sought gingerly to widen his base.
Before the speech, protesters chanting “Dump Trump” and “We’re going to church” tried to push through police barriers to gain entrance.
“The devil’s in the pulpit,” shouted Wyoman Mitchell, one of about 150 protesters who were pushed back by police on foot and on horseback in the tense encounter.
Church pastor Bishop Wayne Jackson had invited the New York billionaire to attend the fellowship service, and make some remarks.
Trump also sat for an interview with Jackson that will be aired at a later date. The New York Times reported that Jackson submitted questions in advance, but it was not known whether the two men went off script.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself in to. I didn’t know. Was this going to be nice? Was this going to be wild?” Trump said of the interview, in remarks to the congregation.
“He’s a great gentleman and a very smart guy. I just hope you don’t lose him to Hollywood.”
The church appearance contrasted sharply with Trump’s previous crude appeals for black support.
“What do you have to lose?” he said nearly two weeks ago, rhetorically addressing African Americans in a speech before a white audience in Ohio.