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March 15, 2016

Milton Street still eager to host Trump rally in Philadelphia

Perennial candidate, activist extended invitation this winter, expects GOP candidate to visit after nomination

Politics Donald Trump
Milton Meets Trump Courtesy of Renee Toppin/for PhillyVoice

T. Milton Street Sr. and his daughter Renee Toppin met then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Dec. 2, 2015. Street is currently running for the state house as a Republican.

As you may have heard, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago last week in the face of unrest fueled by protesters.

As you may remember, local politico and activist T. Milton Street Sr. and his daughter Renee Toppin travelled to Virginia in December to meet with Trump and extend an invitation to host a rally for the candidate here in Philadelphia. So, where does that whole plan stand today?

Street, who said he's reached out to all campaigns except Ted Cruz's (because he just doesn't like anything about him), told PhillyVoice on Tuesday that the invitation is still extended. He doesn't expect to hear anything by way of a formal response prior to the general election campaign, though.

"Is there anything Trump-ier than to have a rally while the Democrats have their [national] convention in town? It's what I would do if I were him." –Ed Feldman, host, Gtown Radio's 'Morning Feed' program

"You have to understand that he's running to get the delegates now and there aren't enough black Republicans in Philadelphia to make a difference in that," he said. "You can't expect him to take his resources and put them in an area where there's no return at all.

"If he wins the nomination, he's coming to Philly. It's gonna be a heavy lift, but it's gonna be interesting. What I think is going to happen – nobody's told me this, it's just my sense – is that once he gets the nomination in July, the floodgates are going to open."

Several months ago, Street said the focus of the Trump-Milton Summit was on inner-city violence and issues he has with the Black Lives Matter approach to protesting. Those issues, he said, would be the focus of a potential rally here.

The presidential campaign has, of course, evolved considerably in the past four months, with its latest iteration centered on the prospect of violence at, or inspired by, Trump rallies. The anger, on all sides, is palpable.

One person who does not want to see Trump hold a rally in Philadelphia is Ed Feldman, host of Gtown Radio’s “Morning Feed” program. (Full disclosure: I appear as a guest on the program several times a year.)

On Tuesday's program, Feldman told PhillyVoice that he's left messages at the offices of Mayor Jim Kenney and Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who represents Germantown, where Barack Obama held rallies as both a candidate and president.

Feldman hopes to get City Hall's support to block a Trump rally in Philadelphia as a "public safety" concern.

"We're building a wall against the Visigoths, Vandals and Huns," Feldman said. "I am petitioning the mayor and City Council to see this as a public safety issue and deny the right [for Trump] to rally here. It's about public safety. 

"All they have to do is show the video [from Chicago]. Without those videos, it could be seen as a First Amendment issue, but because of what happened there, it's become a public-safety issue."

From a City Hall standpoint, Feldman would seemingly have difficulty finding tangible support.

"It's difficult to comment on hypotheticals," said Lauren Hitt, Kenney's communications director, when reached for comment on Tuesday morning, "but we would have serious First Amendment concerns about banning a Republican rally."

Street responded to the idea as well.

"You can't ban anybody from the city," he dismissively said, noting that he's impressed Trump isn't beholden to campaign contributors. "It's an emotional reaction and, to me, a sign of political immaturity."

He also spoke about the impossibility of Trump being able to build a border wall or ban Muslims from entering the country once elected, and voters choosing between supporting candidates and "morality."

"If you vote for 'me,' you're voting for public schools, to stop the violence in our schools and communities, economic empowerment," he said. "But if you're voting for 'morality,' you're going to vote against Donald Trump because he's supported by David Duke and some skinheads.

"Well, 300 people are killed each year in Philadelphia, and Duke or skinheads killed none of them from thousands of miles away. Morality, they're saying, trumps lives. I'm up above that now."

To Feldman, it makes sense that Trump would want to have a rally here in coming months, and he's going to keep at his mission to prevent a rally from happening.

"Is there anything Trump-ier than to have a rally while the Democrats have their [national] convention in town?" he said. "It's what I would do if I were him."