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Michigan Democratic chair: Trump supporters are racist

"If you support Donald Trump, you are a racist," Lavora Barnes said in a statement.
Credit: AP
In this Feb. 7, 2019 photo, Lavora Barnes, Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman, talks during an interview, in Lansing, Mich. Barnes said the party will not repeat mistakes that possibly contributed to Donald Trump's surprise victory in Michigan, pledging to build an organizing operation that will quickly benefit whomever is nominated to challenge the Republican president in 2020. (AP Photo/David Eggert)

LANSING, Mich — The chairwoman of Michigan’s Democratic Party says people who support President Donald Trump are racist.

Lavora Barnes, who is African American, issued a statement late Sunday saying she won't remain silent because “uncomfortable” conversations must occur during protests over police killings of George Floyd and other black people. 

Trump has called demonstrators “thugs" in a Friday tweet, saying "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" before later walking it back. In a conference call with the nation's governors, he berated them as "weak" for not cracking down harder on the violent protest plaguing the country. The president addressed the nation on Monday saying he planned on deploying the military in certain areas to quell the violence. 

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On Monday, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox said police must be held accountable for Floyd’s death and African Americans too often are treated unfairly by law enforcement. But, she says, “calling over 2 million Michiganders ‘racist’ is unacceptable and only makes this tragedy worse." 

"It implies that they cannot be reasoned with, and that our differences cannot be resolved peacefully through discourse and not violence," a statement from Cox said.

Trump narrowly won Michigan back in 2016. He has been accused of stoking racial tensions and exploiting divisions for personal gain since long before he ran for president. Trump and his campaign have tried to make inroads with black Americans, particularly after former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden suggested this month that African American voters who support Trump “ain’t black.” 

RELATED: Biden says he was too 'cavalier' about black voters' choices

“The time for silence is over,” Barnes said. “It is time to challenge, time to have uncomfortable conversations with people that are not ready to have them. It is time to risk some friendships, time to make waves at work, time to recognize that we are past politics now.”

Cox called Barnes’ statement “inflammatory” and said Trump has expressed support for those peacefully protesting.

Barnes countered Monday that Cox attempted to “shame me for speaking truth to power” and it is hypocritical for Republicans to say they will not accept inflammatory statements given Trump’s tweets.

13 ON YOUR SIDE contributed to this reporting.

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