CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Bruce Henderson/Danielle Chemtob/Jim Morrill/Charlotte Observer) - Air Force One has landed in Charlotte, where President Donald Trump will speak at Central Piedmont Community College a day after celebrating his impeachment acquittal by the Senate.
Trump was scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. at an “opportunity now” summit, not open to the public, at CPCC’s Halton Theater. Officials warned of traffic delays until 3 p.m. as Trump’s motorcade moves on an undisclosed route between Charlotte’s airport and the college near uptown.
A small crowd of flag-waving Trump supporters and protesters gathered at CPCC ahead of the president’s arrival.
“Trump is guilty! Trump is guilty!” one group chanted.
“Four more years! Four more years!” supporters responded.
“We want to show Trump that we still support him after that impeachment fiasco,” Carrie Barker said, adding that she can’t wait until he returns for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August.
CPCC student Savanna Shrader, 22, said Trump’s visit hits especially close to home since she’s from Charlotte.
“I want him to know he’s not welcome here — he never will be,” she said.
At the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Trump insisted he had been attacked “by some very dishonest and corrupt people.” Later in the day, he declared that his family “went through hell, unfairly,” attacking by name the Democrats responsible for his impeachment and praising the Senate Republicans who voted to acquit him.
The half-day summit in Charlotte will feature workshops on inmate re-entry into society, economic development for low-income areas, infrastructure, and the future of historically black colleges and universities. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza are also scheduled to speak.
The White House defended tax incentives for investors in blighted areas, known as “opportunity zones,” ahead of his visit Friday. Trump praised the zones during his State of the Union address Tuesday.
Seventeen Charlotte neighborhoods have qualified for the designation, which gives preferential tax treatment for investment in them. But community leaders say the opportunity zones could accelerate gentrification in areas that are already seeing new development and rising property values.
Ja’Ron Smith, a top adviser to Trump, said the zones are being unfairly maligned.
“Gentrification is not something that wasn’t happening already. It was already happening way before opportunity zones legislation became the law,” Smith told McClatchy this week. “The mass build up of urban areas has been happening all across the country, way before opportunity zones became the law.”
The Republican National Convention will be in Charlotte in August, where Trump is expected to formally accept the party’s nomination for his reelection bid.
Trump continued to focus on the strong economy en route to Charlotte, tweeting about a report Friday announcing that employers added 225,000 jobs in January.
“JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” he wrote.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, will not attend Trump’s visit and is taking Friday off as a personal day, a city spokesman said. Democratic City Council members told the Observer they too won’t be there.
“I just don’t have any faith or confidence in this administration,” said council member Malcom Graham. “And I don’t want to be a part of a stage production.”