Trump Campaign Ad Linking Churchgoers to 'Rioters' Upsets Black Church Leaders

Since the campaigning for the upcoming elections kicked off, the Trump campaign has painted a bleak picture of chaos and violence if Joe Biden was elected as President

Leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal demanded an apology from President Donald Trump's campaign for showing black churchgoers in a negative light in its latest ad, a report said on Sunday. Terming the ad as "racist and offensive," the AME leaders said it attempted to portray the black churchgoers as rioters.

The campaign ad, posted last Wednesday on Twitter, showed violent protests against a recent spate of police killings and blamed the unrest on Trump's Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Towards the end, the video showed footage of Biden kneeling at Bethel denomination of the AME in Wilmington, Delaware, with black churchgoers and local pastors standing behind him. The clip was followed by a slide stating: "Stop Joe Biden and his rioters."

Joe Biden taking a knee
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with pastor of the Bethel AME Church, Rev. Dr. Silvester S. Beaman and attendees during a visit to the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, in June 2020. Twitter

The Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel AME Church told Religion News Service (RNS) that the campaign ad was a "racist attack" on the African American church and may incite "white terrorism" against people of color.

"The ad is overtly racist and offensive on numerous levels," Beaman said. "It is a racist attack on the African American church, and because it was an attack on the Christian church, it should be offensive to every Christian and person of faith."

According to RNS, the AME was preparing an official statement to be released on Monday. In a draft statement issued to the news agency, the AME demanded an apology from the Trump campaign and sought federal protection of Bethel over the fear of violence following the video. The black church leaders also called for an investigation into the legality of the use of church images and video clips in the campaign ad.

The clip used in the video was from Biden's visit to Bethel AME Church in June following the police killing of black man George Floyd in May. Floyd's death triggered massive protests across the United States and people called for sweeping police reforms. During the visit, Biden took a knee partly for a compact photograph, but also as a "moral gesture of solidarity" for racial justice, Beaman reportedly said.

"I am insulted and appalled that our group of nonviolent religious, community, academic and political leaders would be characterized as thugs when Trump's response to the same issues causing protest was to use military-type tactics to gas, bully, and clear the way of protesters so he could go to a closed church — that didn't invite him — and wave a Bible for a photo op," he told RNS.

This is not the first time the Trump campaign used stills from Biden's visit to Bethe AME Church in their ads. In August, a Twitter user who went by the handle @2020BlueTexas pointed out that the campaign used Biden's image where he is seen praying with head bowed and hands folded to show him "tired and worn out."

Since the campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections kicked off, the Trump campaign has painted a bleak picture of chaos and violence if Biden was elected as the president. Clips of protests against police killings have been used to show that the Democratic presidential nominee supported violent protesters.

During the Republican National Convention, Trump supporters attacked Biden and promoted the President as the only person who could save the country.