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Inspired by Trump, right-wing extremist Scott Presler organizes a “Clean Up” event in West Baltimore, but is this altruism or a political ploy for Trump?

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MARC STEINER: As we broadcast here today out of Baltimore, Maryland, Scott Presler, this right-wing guy who runs this thing that his hashtag is #gaysforTrump but ran ACT! for America, which has been this right-wing, vicious anti-Muslim group, came to Baltimore with about 300 people I was told. I’m not sure of the exact number, but racially mixed, mostly white, to go clean up the west side of Baltimore, which is a black community where Eddie Conway and others here at Tubman House that grows food for people and Eddie confronted them in the street about, what people need here is jobs, not you cleaning up their alleys.

SUSANNE MONK: How you all doing?

EDDIE CONWAY: All right, how you doing? What’s happening here?

SUSANNE MONK: How you doing? I’m Susanne Monk. Nice to meet you. We are down here with our friend Scott Presler who arranged this huge cleanup day. We’re down here cleaning up the neighborhood. We got about 300 volunteers, about another 50 people have volunteered just from around the neighborhood just cleaning’ up. We’ve filled up several dumpsters and we are down here just trying to make a difference. The president tweeted about Baltimore and it motivated a lot of us, whether you like him or hate him, to come get something done. So we’re just Americans helping Americans today and that’s what we’re doing.

SCOTT PRESLER: Well, you know, it was started by President Trump tweeting about Baltimore, but the people that are coming here today, this isn’t a Trump rally, this isn’t anti-Representative Cummings, this is simply the community coming together. I mean, we even have Governor Hogan’s office sent this gentleman, Kenneth, to be here with us today. And the coolest part for me, Eddie, it’s not only having the volunteers coming from Baltimore, Maryland and all over the country, but I’ve been meeting with the local community—

DR. RUSSAN: Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania—

SCOTT PRESLER: North Carolina.

DR. RUSSAN: North Carolina.

SCOTT PRESLER: But, the coolest part has been listening to people like Louise, Ms. Dupay, Grace, Lawrence. They live here. This is their community. Because we, we’re gonna go back home, some of us. We need the Baltimore community like Mr. Russan, to be able to work with the people that live here to make sure that this alley, doesn’t go back to what it was. The whole goal is we don’t wanna put a band-aid on the situation we wanna work on a long-term solution to this problem.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, can I ask you this? Because I think, and I’m from this community myself, I do a farm right up there. The problem in this community, the main problem in this community is not the garbage, although that is a problem, and cleaning it up—

DR. RUSSAN: Not the garbage on top of that roof right there?

EDDIE CONWAY: No, it’s not the main problem. The main problem is unemployment. The main problem is there’s no employment for young people here. The main problem is that 50% of the youth in this community can’t find jobs.

REPRESENTATIVE FOR GOV. LARRY HOGAN: I mean, we will see that issue if those, what you said, the folks that was not working, then they should have been out here cleaning their community.

DR. RUSSAN: And now we have a change where this young gentleman tweeted on a national level. I’m here on the grassroots level here in the community as a person who ran for state senator after the most powerful man in the land. And like you say, it’s not a political thing. Activism, I’m doing this 24/7. My wife, I don’t even know if I’ll have a wife by the time I get back home because I’m always about the people. …This man came across the nation. This ain’t a political thing! This a developmental thing.

RHONDA STOKES: First of all, I think they ought to start where they live, because this, around here, it’s all over America. It’s not just here in Baltimore. They need to start in Westminster, West Virginia and all those places before coming here and telling us how we need to live.

EDDIE CONWAY: You think this is going to have any impact on whether or not they come out and vote for Trump since— [crosstalk]

RHONDA STOKES: Absolutely not. This is just a ploy for Trump to try and win the black vote. Absolutely not. And you coming around here and cleaning up, that’s not gonna change anything. We wasn’t giving this world—I mean, we didn’t make this world; we were given it. You act like it’s our fault that these conditions are here, it’s not. And it won’t change.

SOUTHWEST BALTIMORE RESIDENT: I live in Southwest Baltimore, and you know what? It’s just not jobs. The problem is—

EDDIE CONWAY: People in your community need jobs too, in Southwest Baltimore.

SOUTHWEST BALTIMORE RESIDENT: It’s just not jobs. That’s what I’m saying. It’s just not jobs. People need to get off the drugs. Once you get rid of the drugs, part of the problem is solved because then people will be able to go get the jobs. A lot of places don’t want to hire because of rap sheets. A lot of people have rap sheets in these hoods. Nobody wants to hire them.

EDDIE CONWAY: Yeah because there’s a disproportionate amount of people being locked up in these communities that aren’t locked up in the white communities, you know that?

BYSTANDER: Oh my god. Here we go.

SOUTHWEST BALTIMORE RESIDENT: No, it’s not! That is not!

EDDIE CONWAY: That’s not true?

BYSTANDER: We’re having a good day, everybody is here together, and you’re coming out here with all of that.

EDDIE CONWAY: You’re having a good day? You have 75% of the people in the prison system here are black people. You might not be aware of it, but I’m aware of it.

BYSTANDER: [crosstalk] been long for just the same way.

MARC STEINER: So. But that’s the other half of their tactic, I think. We talked a bit about that earlier, Gerald, and your thoughts on that, which I thought were really interesting.

GERALD HORNE: Well, it did not surprise me that the heroic Eddie Conway confronted these fakes and frauds in the streets. I would hope that he was accompanied by a sizeable posse. But in any case, I think that this fraudulent theater was not directed at the residents of Baltimore, so much as they were directed at a national audience of so-called white suburbanites who sleep better at night when they think that they are not supporting a white supremacist and neo-fascist when they are deluding themselves into thinking that they are supporting these nice people who are going with brooms into Baltimore to help clean up the streets. This is not only fraudulent theater, it’s demagogic theater, and should be repudiated and rebuffed with all due deliberate speed.

MARC STEINER: Quick thought on that, Arun, before we stop?

ARUN GUPTA: Yeah, if someone from ACT for America—it’s just an absolutely vile anti-Muslim organization—is going to clean up Baltimore, that’s like sending a pedophile to serve milk and cookies to starving kids in a nursery school. It’s really just the worst. But I do also want to end with, in September there’s going be climate strikes, in October there’s going to be national days of actions in the middle of the month against concentration camps, so people really need to get in the streets, right?

What we see is an attempt to close political and social space. That’s what these terrorist attacks are also about. We need a mass movement of millions of non-violent people shutting things down, shutting down ICE, shutting down government, and we need to build a mass movement of non-cooperation and that’s how we beat these fascists.

MARC STEINER: Well, Arun Gupta and Dr. Gerald Horne, I want to thank you both so much for being here today. I do deeply appreciate your thoughts and look forward to many more conversations. Thank you so much.

ARUN GUPTA: Thank you.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you.

MARC STEINER: And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. You know were going to stay on top of all of this, for all of you and ourselves. Take care.

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Executive Producer
Eddie Conway is an Executive Producer of The Real News Network. He is the host of the TRNN show Rattling the Bars. He is Chairman of the Board of Ida B's Restaurant, and the author of two books: Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther and The Greatest Threat: The Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO. A former member of the Black Panther Party, Eddie Conway is an internationally known political prisoner for over 43 years, a long time prisoners' rights organizer in Maryland, the co-founder of the Friend of a Friend mentoring program, and the President of Tubman House Inc. of Baltimore. He is a national and international speaker and has several degrees.