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Secretive Trump fundraiser raises eyebrows, sparks protests against Dan Gilbert

One of the signs at the anti-Gilbert protest in downtown Detroit Monday.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
One of the signs at the anti-Gilbert protest in downtown Detroit Monday.

Donald Trump’s fundraiser at a Dan Gilbert-owned Detroit building raised some eyebrows last week.

It also drew a small group of protesters to the mortgage-and-real-estate tycoon’s downtown headquarters Monday.

The Reverend William Wylie-Kellerman was one of them.

Kellerman says Detroit is facing a “corporate takeover,” facilitated by the city’s bankruptcy and led by Gilbert’s mass real estate acquisitions in and around the city’s downtown.

Kellerman says fellow real estate developer Trump has a similar profile. “To be fusing that with a national agenda of corporate fascism is … that’s a concern to people on the ground,” he said.

Fellow protester Janis McKinney said Trump slogans like “make America great again” allude to a past she doesn’t feel much nostalgia for.

“I’m old enough to know how [things] used to be. And I don’t want ‘em that way anymore,” McKinney said.

McKinney said most Detroiters aren’t benefiting from downtown’s Gilbert-led “turnaround.” She called the two alike in another way: “All the bling and the flash, but no substance.”

Gilbert has made large donations to Republican candidates in the past, including some of Trump’s former rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.

But he didn’t host the fundraiser, which was organized by the Republican National Committee. And the event in the Gilbert-owned Dime Building shouldn’t be read as an endorsement, said Bedrock Real estate spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger.

Eichinger wouldn’t say whether Gilbert attended the event, or whether he supports Trump, noting that Gilbert has “never publicly discussed any candidate he’s endorsed.”

Eichinger declined to comment on the protests, other than to say that “people are entitled to their own opinions.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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