By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
MILWAUKEE (AP) — President Donald Trump was calling attention to his economic policies on Thursday by taking part in a ceremonial groundbreaking for Foxconn’s $10 billion Foxconn factory complex, which promises to bring thousands of jobs to a state Trump barely carried in the 2016 presidential election.
But Trump’s celebration will be overshadowed by Harley-Davidson’s announcement about moving some motorcycle production overseas to avoid European Union tariffs that are a product of Trump’s escalating trade dispute with long-standing U.S. allies.
The president was irked by the Milwaukee-based company’s announcement this week and tweeted about it for three straight days, writing that any shift in production “will be the beginning of the end” for the American manufacturer and even threatening retaliatory taxes.
Trump’s presence in Wisconsin was the subject of protests both in Milwaukee, where he spent a rare weeknight away from the White House, and in Mount Pleasant, where final preparations were under way for the groundbreaking.
Chants of “Hey, hey, Ho, ho. Donald Trump has got to go” were heard near the Pfister Hotel, where Trump stayed overnight and was to attend a pair of closed-door campaign events before heading to the groundbreaking.
About 50 people walked from a downtown park to as close as they could get to the roped-off hotel, hoping Trump would hear their calls to reunite migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border after the president decided to prosecute everyone trying to enter the U.S. illegally.
As the president hobnobbed with supporters in Milwaukee, his wife, Melania, was making her second trip in a week to the southern border to visit detention centers housing migrant children. She toured a center in Texas last Thursday.
Protesters were also gathering near the Foxconn Technology Group campus in Mount Pleasant, about 30 miles south of Milwaukee.
Nearly 40 groups representing students, environmentalists, civil-rights advocates, teachers, union workers and others have organized an event featuring dozens of speakers, a marching band, singers and musicians who plan to play ominous “Star Wars” music.
The Foxconn project could employ up to 13,000 people, but opponents say it is costing Wisconsin taxpayers too much.
The ceremonial groundbreaking was supposed to be evidence that the manufacturing revival fueled by Trump’s “America First” policy is well underway. But Harley-Davidson’s announcement, spurred by the trans-Atlantic tariff fight, appears to have turned that on its head.
Gov. Scott Walker is counting on a strong economy as part of his case for re-election in November. Wisconsin’s unemployment is at record-low levels and Walker argues that the Foxconn project, the largest economic development deal in state history, shows the state is on the right track.
When the deal, reached with help from the White House, was signed last year, Walker said critics could “suck lemons” and “all of us in the state should be smiling, Republican and Democrat, doesn’t matter.”
A year later, opinion polls show Wisconsin voters are split on the project and the state of the economy.
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