Ivanka Trump Tells Black Pastors Her Father Is Acting on Police

(Bloomberg) -- Ivanka Trump assured Black pastors in Pittsburgh that her father will address police brutality and U.S. racial divisions, reaching out to a community largely unfamiliar to the White House as the president signed an order to encourage better training at law enforcement agencies.

“I’m proud of the president’s record,” she told a small group of religious leaders at the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ on Tuesday. “He’s more action than talk.”

President Donald Trump was castigated by some political and religious leaders earlier this month when a park across the street from the White House was forcibly cleared of people protesting police brutality before he walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church to hold a Bible in front of photographers.

Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser at the White House, was among an all-White coterie of aides who accompanied her father on the walk. She carried the Bible that he held aloft in a handbag that retails for more than $1,500.

Her visit to the Pittsburgh church, in a critical state for Trump’s re-election, was her first public appearance since the incident. A technical school in Kansas, Wichita State University Tech, earlier this month canceled what would have been Ivanka Trump’s first commencement address, after students and faculty objected.

She invited a reporter for Bloomberg News to cover her meeting with religious leaders, but declined to answer questions about the president’s controversial walk to St. John’s. Meanwhile, at the White House, the president met privately with the families of Black people killed in encounters with police before signing an executive order on policing. The order makes certain federal grants to state and local police contingent on accreditation by organizations that would set standards for use-of-force and de-escalation training for officers.

The pastors responded warmly to Ivanka Trump’s visit, but afterward drew contrasts with the Trump administration. The president has drawn bipartisan criticism for threatening to use the military to quell nationwide protests that followed the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody last month.

Bishop Loran Mann, one of the leaders of the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, said in an interview that systemic racism exists in the U.S.

Trump and his top advisers have dismissed that notion.

“I grew up in the South and this has been our experience all my life,” he said. “What these recent incidents show is that America has a problem. And we’re not living up to ideals that we preach. Until we come together and face ourselves for who we are, my fear is this is going to continue.”

He called the president’s executive order on police training “a start. When it comes to solving the problem of racism we’ve got to be intentional and deliberate.”

Asked for his advice to Trump, he said: “Listen to our pain.”

Pastor John Harrell of Proviso Baptist Church in Chicago, who attended the Pittsburgh meeting, said: “The playing field is unlevel all across the board — there’s racism in banking, and in education. There’s a systemic problem across the board.”

He said he’s neither a Democrat nor Republican, blaming Democrats for the “mass incarceration” of Black men. But he suggested Trump appoint more people of color to positions of power in his administration. “You have you got to have more representation of people of color,” he said.

The area of Pittsburgh that Ivanka Trump visited was near a so-called “Opportunity Zone,” one of about 9,000 tracts in low-income areas of the country where investors can reap generous savings on capital gains taxes in exchange for financing development. The program was created as part of the 2017 tax overhaul President Trump signed into law.

She asked the pastors whether steel production had begun to benefit the area thanks to the president’s efforts to revitalize domestic production of the material. One of the local leaders said they had not seen any major change.

During the visit, where she was accompanied by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Ivanka Trump also helped load boxes of food into cars as part of a federal food donation program.

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