Ahead of several planned rallies surrounding this week’s House Republican Conference at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Harbor East, where President Donald Trump is expected to be speaking this Thursday, protestors want to make one thing clear.
“These protests are not against President Trump,” says Cristi Linn, lead organizer at Baltimore Welcoming Committee (BWC). “It’s against the House Republican retreat that Trump happens to be attending.”
As the retreat nears, grassroots organizations like Baltimore Welcoming Committee have sprouted into action with plans for events and protests in the Harbor East area. In the case of BWC, these events have been in the works for several weeks.
But over the weekend, after weeks of speculation, it was announced that President Trump would be coming to Baltimore on Thursday to speak at the retreat—which is sponsored by the nonprofit Congressional Institute. The visit comes on the heels of the president’s comments last month about the city, calling it “rat infested,” as well as taking aim at Congressman Elijah Cummings. The remarks spurred a rallying cry, #WeAreBaltimore, which locals used to tag their social media posts explaining what they love most about the city.
The retreat being held in Baltimore has been common knowledge for months. It’s set to be held over the course of three days, though the most attention it will likely draw is around the president’s visit. Its purpose is to serve as a gathering for lawmakers to communicate goals and take stock of the party.
The BWC is made up of people who represent different demographics—including members of the LGBTQ community, people of color, and those who are disabled. Organizers see the event as a way to foster community while also espousing their views. “We want to bring attention to all of the issues and how they affect real people,” Linn says.
While a vast array of events—among them a dance party, a singing labor protest, and a climate protest—are being organized by the Baltimore Welcoming Committee, other groups are getting into the fray as well.
People’s Power Assembly, which “fights to defend the rights of poor and working people” is planning its own event Thursday centered around climate change and opposing racism. Much like BWC, People’s Power Assembly was also proactive in its planning.
“We had heard about retreat before as it was reported on,” says Sharon Black, a representative from the organization. “Our view was that the chance [of him coming] was very high. We projected our protest not just around Trump, but really the event in general.”
Of course, with the president’s first proper visit to the city scheduled, the fervor surrounding the weekend heightens. Linn says that in the last 24 hours interest from the general public has significantly increased. Meanwhile, the visit also raises the probability that counter protesters may launch their own events.
“If you would’ve asked me before he was coming, I would’ve said it’s gonna be peaceful the whole time,” Linn says. “I think that if there is a chance for any escalation it’s gonna be Thursday.”
Regardless, given the interactions between the city of Baltimore and the president over the last month, the discourse that arises from the retreat will govern conversation around the city.
“My hope is that people don’t only want to come protest Trump, and they join in on the other actions, as well,” Linn says. “Those are really the ones that will build solidarity.”