Kamala Harris visits Detroit to tout Biden administration's economic policies

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Vice President Kamala Harris visited Detroit on Monday to tout the Biden administration's economic agenda, casting it as a transformational investment to help Americans prosper, onshore supply chains and close racial disparities on a range of fronts from business lending to homeownership.

The stop — part of the vice president's nationwide economic opportunity tour — drew pro-Palestinian protesters nearby who decried the Biden administration's Gaza policies.

In Detroit, Harris announced more than $100 million in U.S. Department of Energy grant programs for supporting small- and medium-size auto parts manufacturers to convert their facilities to make parts for electric vehicles and boost their productivity.

"This investment will help to keep our auto supply chains here in America ... and keep those jobs here in Detroit," Harris said at the event held at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History under an American flag and blue signs declaring "economic opportunity for all" in big block letters. She also announced the launch of a new program to help small- and mid-size auto suppliers by matching government-backed loans with private equity capital.

President Joe Biden has largely campaigned on preserving American democracy and abortion rights while his likely GOP opponent this fall, former President Donald Trump, has tried to tap into anti-immigrant and economic grievances on the campaign trail. But Harris' stop in the Motor City represented an election-year push by the administration in a key battleground state to tout its economic policies.

"So, Michigan, you know I believe that America’s economy is powered by the ambition and aspiration of our people … to innovate, to create and to prosper therefore to grow our economy, we must invest in that ambition and those aspirations. I believe every person in our country then must have access to the opportunity to compete to succeed and to thrive," Harris said to kick off her remarks.

Vice President Kamala Harris greets the crowd after speaking at the Charles H. Wright African American museum in Detroit on her nationwide Economic Opportunity Tour on Monday, May 6, 2024. The vice president highlighted how the Biden-Harris administration has taken historic steps to advance economic opportunity by creating jobs, investing in small businesses, supporting the auto sector, increasing access to capital, improving access to housing, forgiving student loans and medical debt, and championing additional policies that put money in people’s pockets and build wealth. Harris outlined how she and President Joe Biden are expanding this work.

A primarily Black crowd of supporters stood on their feet and greeted her with loud applause while the Cass Tech marching band bid farewell to Harris with a booming number that reverberated loudly throughout the museum's atrium.

U.S. Energy Secretary and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm joined Harris for the event, where she touted electric vehicle-related factory and job announcements. "People will start to see cranes going up, and that is in fact happening in many places," Granholm said.

Outside the venue beforehand, Harris' visit was met with dozens of protesters calling for a cease-fire, but Detroit Police officers lined up along Woodward Avenue to prevent them from approaching the Wright Museum.

Protesters call for a “Free Palestine” during Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Detroit. Protesters kicked off speeches at the Purdy Kresge Library and marched to the Wright Museum demanding a cease-fire.
Protesters call for a “Free Palestine” during Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Detroit. Protesters kicked off speeches at the Purdy Kresge Library and marched to the Wright Museum demanding a cease-fire.

Protesters loudly vocalized that the Biden administration is on a "killing spree" of Palestinians, chanting phrases like "VP of apartheid … leaders of genocide" and "Bloody Harris, Genocide Joe, both of you have got to go" as they marched toward the museum.

"You can't come to our city in our communities and continue to disregard our demands, which is calling for an immediate and permanent cease-fire and ensuring that we're halting all military aid to Israel," said cease-fire activist Lexis Zeidan, 31. After Hamas announced Monday it accepted a proposed cease-fire deal, Israel responded by saying it would keep moving forward with its military operation plans in Rafah in southern Gaza, according to reporting from USA Today.

The Biden campaign delivered its own message outside the venue too. Earlier in the day and a couple of blocks away, a truck displayed a Biden campaign ad featuring a photo of Harris and Biden smiling, declaring Black unemployment reaching "record lows" under their watch.

Harris' visit marks the first this year by either the White House or Biden-Harris campaign to Detroit, Michigan's largest city and a majority-Black Democratic stronghold. With standing room only in the hot room, one attendee collapsed. Those nearby fanned her to try to cool her down before security personnel took her out of the room in a wheelchair.

Biden will make his own appearance in the city later this month at the Detroit NAACP's Fight for Freedom Fund dinner. Biden spoke in Michigan this year at a UAW union hall in Warren, a stop that also drew pro-Palestinian demonstrators, and visited Saginaw as well.

2024 Election in Michigan: Important swing state for Biden, Trump in presidential contest

Harris' visit comes less than a week after Trump visited Michigan. During a campaign rally, Trump blamed Biden for inflation that has hit American households with cost increases for routine expenses such as gas and groceries.

"On day one we’ll throw out Bidenomics and we will reinstate a thing call MAGAnomics," Trump told his supporters during a campaign rally near Saginaw last week, referring to his campaign promise to "Make America Great Again." Trump blasted Biden's push to encourage electric vehicle production and sales as an economic disaster for autoworkers and drivers.

Michigan — a key swing state in the upcoming election — could decide the presidential contest this fall. In 2016, Trump won Michigan by nearly 11,000 votes or 0.2 percentage points, the tightest margin of victory of any state. Biden defeated Trump in the state in 2020 by more than 154,000 votes or just under 2.8 percentage points.

Contact Clara Hendrickson: chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on X, previously called Twitter, @clarajanehen.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Kamala Harris champions economic agenda in Detroit visit