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Democrats call out Trump, call for justice at NAACP convention in Detroit

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit is hosting the national NAACP’s 110th annual convention this week, and Democratic lawmakers are flocking there to address convention-goers ahead of the 2020 election.

This year’s convention motto is “When we fight, we win.” It’s heavily focused on engaging and mobilizing Black voter turnout next year, as well influencing policy on like voting rights, criminal justice reform, and other racial justice issues central to the historic civil rights group’s agenda.

The convention is drawing attention from some high-profile Democrats, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who addressed the crowd Monday. So did Michigan’s two U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and Detroit Congresswomen Brenda Lawrence and Rashida Tlaib.

Tlaib, who’s one of four Congresswomen known as “The Squad” that has been targeted by President Donald Trump in a series of vitriolic tweets—including the now-infamous suggestion that they “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came”—took aim at Trump and his “hate agenda,” telling convention-goes: “I’m not going nowhere until I impeach this President.”

But Tlaib, who’s been at odds with Pelosi over impeachment and other issues, focused most on urging Democrats and progressive voters to “be bold,” and push the envelope of what’s considered politically feasible on issues like climate change and economic inequality.

“And yeah, people are going to say, this is too bold, too radical, too far left, to reject it. That’s how they discredit movements like this,” Tlaib said.

“Being bold, taking bold action, doesn’t mean we lose. What we’re saying here is when we fight, we win. That’s how we fight! We fight by taking these kinds of actions.”

Pelosi’s speech echoed that aspect of Tlaib’s message. It was peppered with references to historic civil rights movement leaders such as Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quoting him when she told the audience that “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

Pelosi didn’t explicitly mention Trump in her speech, nor did she mention or condemn his repeated verbal attacks on the Squad and incitement of racist rhetoric. Instead, she focused on what House Democrats are doing to address contemporary civil rights issues, such as efforts to restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act and raise the federal minimum wage.

Pelosi urged the NAACP and other civil rights groups to keep mobilizing voters and upping the pressure on lawmakers. “With your outside mobilizing and our inside maneuvering, we can achieve a more fair, free, and just future,” she said.

More national political leaders will hit the convention in days to come. Things wrap up on Wednesday, when ten presidential candidates, nine of them Democrats, will be there for a voter forum.

Democratic presidential hopefuls are meeting for the second time on the debate stage July 30 and 31. We want your input to help guide our coverage of the debates and the 2020 election. Share your thoughts below.


Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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