Sat | Dec 15, 2018

'Falling apart?' - Trump's insults not forgotten in Atlanta

Published:Monday | January 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

When President Donald Trump swoops into Atlanta for a VIP seat at college football's biggest game, he'll enjoy the Southern hospitality of a city he disparaged a year ago as "falling apart" and "crime-infested".

The insults tweeted by Trump a week before his inauguration may seem like ancient history to most Americans who follow the president's voluminous stream of online invective. But Atlanta hasn't forgotten.

"It was very personal because we live here and we love it," said Stephanie Langer, a 40-year-old East Atlanta resident whose anger over the president's put-downs was rekindled by news of his pending visit.

"I guess it's just ironic that he's coming here," she said. "I guess things must have improved."

Trump plans to be among 72,000 attending the College Football Playoff Championship game Monday evening between Georgia and Alabama. The game is being held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new $1.5-billion home field of the Atlanta Falcons.




The stadium sits in the heart of downtown Atlanta, a place Trump targeted in a pair of tweets January 14 last year. He was punching back at Democratic Rep John Lewis. The Atlanta congressman, a civil rights hero, had said he would skip Trump's inauguration after allegations of Russian election meddling caused him to doubt Trump "as a legitimate president".

Trump tweeted : "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime-infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results."

Lewis' 5th District seat covers most of the city of Atlanta, including downtown. Trump's attack galvanised residents to post photos of their neighbourhoods and other Twitter rebuttals under the hashtag #defendthe5th.

Like many in Atlanta, Josh Calvin is protective of the congressman and of the city. Calvin, 43, can see the new football stadium from the door of Bottle Rocket, a sushi and burger restaurant he owns in Atlanta's Castleberry Hill neighbourhood. Over the 12 years that he's been there, he said, he's seen improved crime rates and impressive urban revitalization.

"For him to disparage someone like John Lewis is absolutely ludicrous," said Calvin, who figures Trump wants to come to the big game for the attention rather than any real interest in football.