Way back in September, then-presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met for their first debate. During that 90 minute volley, moderator Lester Holt asked how they planned to close what he called “a very wide and bitter” racial divide. After talking about how police love him, Trump focused his answer on what he sees as a racialized “inner-city” problem:
We have a situation where we have our inner cities—African Americans, Hispanics—are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot. In Chicago, they’ve had thousands of shootings, thousands, since January 1st. Thousands of shootings. And I’m saying, where is this? Is this a war torn country? What are we doing? And we have to stop the violence, we have to bring back law and order. In a place like Chicago where thousands of people have been killed, thousands over the last number of years, in fact almost 4,000 have been killed since Barack Obama became president, almost 4,000 people in Chicago have been killed. We have to bring back law and order.
He continued the thread of holding Chicago—which had the nation’s eighth highest murder rate in 2016 and has seen more than 1,000 people shot so far in 2017—up as the summation of his views on Black people when he invited a group of African Americans to the White House in February. That delegation included Darrell Scott, a Cleveland pastor who spoke on behalf of Trump at the Republican National Convention. During the White House visit, he told Trump, “I was contacted by some of the top gang thugs in Chicago for a sit down. They reached out to me because they associated me with you. They respect you, they believe in what you’re doing and they want to have a sit down about lowering that body count.” Cleveland Scene reports that Scott later walked back that statement, saying he spoke to one former gang member and was confused because he was tired.
On Tuesday (April 25), VICE News Tonight aired an investigation into the city’s gang violence and exactly where Scott—who is now CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump—fits into the conversation.
Host Antonia Hylton talked to Chicago community organizers, gang members, clergy and Scott on the eve of his planned—and subsequently postponed—“gang summit with a negotiated cease fire” in March. Gang members, including Gangster Disciple Birdman who has been shot 13 times, tell Hylton that they are never actually included in these meetings. “I bet you that whole table gonna be full of everybody in suits and ties,” Birdman says. “They ain’t gon be nobody in that room dressed like how we dressed.”
“They think we ignorant,” Lil G interjects.
When Hylton presses Scott on the feasibility of his brokering a cease fire in Chicago, he chuckles and says, “Cease fire—if the Lord Jesus Christ descends from heaven right now, that would be hard for him to do.” When pressed on how he will navigate the various constituencies and issues at play, he admits that he’s still learning what it will take, but does not regret his promise to connect Trump with “top gang thugs” in a city where he does not live.
Scott does eventually hold the meeting on April 18 in Washington, D.C. As Birdman predicted, the room is full of about two dozen pastors, business men, Trump and Scott’s friends—and six people from the South Side of Chicago. Watch the video above to see what happened during that five-hour meeting.