BY: TERRANCE SMITH AND WILL STEAKIN, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — President Trump’s re-election team is moving forward with plans to open over a dozen retail properties for voter outreach in communities of color—communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus as the pandemic surges around the country.
The team is looking to resume its previously announced plans to open “community centers” across battleground states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina –places where there have also been significant spikes in COVID-19 cases.
Public health experts such as Dr. Shad Marvasti, director of Public Health and associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix told ABC News it would be irresponsible to open these centers during the height of the pandemic.
“Right now it’s not advisable to have any type of activity that’s not necessary, where people are interacting indoors, particularly in communities of black and brown that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Marvasti said. “They are getting hospitalized and dying at much higher rates than white Americans. I think it’s irresponsible to expose them by having yet another touch point of people interacting in close settings which we know is higher risk in terms of transmitting the virus.”
The Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign will look to open 15 Black Voices for Trump Community Centers this Summer in several cities across the country such as Philadelphia, Cleveland, Greensboro, Milwaukee, Charlotte and the host city for the former RNC National Convention Jacksonville, Florida.
RNC Senior Communications Advisor for Black Media Affairs Paris Dennard said that the plan for these centers is to get them in accordance with guidance from local officials.
“It is based upon local guidance from mayors and what it can be deemed essential and non-essential etc, but the plan is to get those things opened up this summer,” Dennard said.
The Trump campaign is also trying to make up ground since the coronavirus epidemic has since significantly hindered not only the campaign’s “Black Voices for Trump” retail shops plans, delaying their openings.
The Trump campaign has invested millions in efforts to reach voters of color over the last year through both television and digital advertisements, including a $10 million Super Bowl ad, and launching multiple coalitions including “Black Voices for Trump” and “Latinos for Trump.”
The centers are places where the Trump campaign staffers would sell merchandise like hats that have the word “woke”–appropriating a term that signals racial awareness — on them while also working to register voters while pitching them on the president’s economic record and criminal justice reform bill.
Perhaps more crucially, a key element of the president’s economic pitch to voters of color has evaporated as the pandemic has sent unemployment rates soaring, disproportionately harming communities of color.
RNC Regional Communications Director of Hispanic Outreach Andres Malave said target locations for the centers have been identified all over the state of Florida and the southwestern part of the country for the Latinos for Trump coalition.
Director of Strategic Initiatives for Arizona Trump Victory, Jeremiah Cota shared an image last week showing off a new retail space where a “Latinos for Trump” center is set to open in Phoenix, Arizona. “Trump Victory is ready to launch the first ever #LatinosForTrump community center in the heart of South Phoenix!,” Cota wrote.
The Trump campaign’s plans to open a new retail spot in Phoenix, Arizona comes as the coronavirus pandemic in the state shows cases slightly decreasing but so is testing. Arizona had its two deadliest days of the pandemic this past week.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced earlier this month that Arizona bars, gyms and theaters are to be closed again as well as large gatherings were restricted.
Phoenix, Arizona is a heavily populated community of color with 42.6% of residents Latino and 2.6% African American according to 2019 United States Census estimates.
All across the country the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “non-Hispanic black persons, Hispanics and Latinos, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, evidence points to higher rates of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 than among non-Hispanic white persons.”
An extensive ABC News, FiveThirtyEight and ABC-owned television stations review found that it was significantly harder to get coronavirus testing in those black and brown communities.
Public health experts have repeatedly said that testing and tracing were key strategies in controlling outbreaks across the country.
Malave said that everyone in the centers and everyone that comes in will be following local and state guidelines.
“We follow all local and state guidelines to ensure our field teams, volunteers, and everyone we are working with and sharing our message with can celebrate President Trump’s re-election efforts safely,” Malave said.
The president’s renewed push to woo voters of color comes amid racial tensions in the county that have boiled over following the death of George Floyd, leading to nation-wide protests calling for racial justice also while being down in national polling.
In late May President Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase was used by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley using it speaking about violent crime in the segregated city during the civil rights movement in 1967.
Headley said Miami hadn’t “faced serious problems with civil uprisings and looting because I’ve let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” according to the Miami Herald. “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” Headley added.
Headley was also known for cracking down on communities of color with policing policies like stop-and-frisk and his use of patrol dogs.
In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, the results found that Trump has gone from an 18-point lead among white registered voters to a minimal four points now, while 94% of Black registered voters support Biden.
With regards to handling race relations in the country, Biden leads by 25 points, 58-33%.
Earlier this month, the ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 92% of black Americans and 83% of Hispanics disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations.
Despite his position in the polls, Malave said that these coalitions and centers can pay dividends for the re-election for Trump to better his outreach and messaging to communities of color.
“So I think it’s a really great opportunity right now to continue to drive our message in this community. We have a really solid deck of Latinos for Trump advisory board members from all over the country,” Malave said.
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