INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence on Friday called Donald Trump a "great champion" of America's inner cities.
Pence made the remarks during a speech before an anti-violence group in his home state of Indiana. The Republican former Indiana governor heaped praise on the faith-based group, called the Ten Point Coalition, which local authorities credit for helping to reduce homicides in several neighborhoods, even though the overall murder rate is up.
Trump "and I talked about it this morning," Pence said. "All of you who feel called to confront the challenge of urban youth violence — you have an ally, an advocate and a champion in President Donald Trump."
But considering Trump was swept into office following a campaign that trafficked in racial and anti-immigrant themes, not everyone is convinced. A group of about 30 protesters, including some sporting Black Lives Matter shirts, protested outside the fundraising event at a downtown hotel.
Joe Slash, the former head of the Indianapolis Urban League, told The Indianapolis Star that "a lot of people in the black community don't have fond feelings for Mike Pence and there's been a negative reaction about their bringing him here for a fundraiser."
Slash said the Ten Point Coalition "should have consulted people before they made that decision" though he credited the group with reaching out across the aisle.
The coalition, led by several African-American ministers, is known for its campaigns to stem violence in crime-plagued city neighborhoods. It uses community members, in some cases reformed gang members, to de-escalate neighborhood tension.
Pence said the group "literally everyday works miracles in the evening hours of the streets of Indianapolis" and he said their model should be exported to other cities.
The speech was not Pence's only stop in Indianapolis. He also attended a Statehouse ceremony where his official state portrait was unveiled, which the vice president said left him "deeply humbled."
Pence's portrait shows the one-term Republican seated on top of his desk, with an open Bible and a family picture to his right. A stack of law books is to his left, with Indiana and U.S. flags in the background.
Pence is also wearing a blue and gold tie — designed by wife Karen Pence — that is based on the state's logo.