Melania Trump's visit Wednesday to a Boston hospital was met with something the first lady doesn't normally encounter on her solo trips: dozens of protesters.
As Trump's motorcade pulled into Boston Medical Center, located in the city's South End, protesters on a grassy area in front of the building held signs and chanted, most decrying the immigration stance and policies of her husband, President Donald Trump.
Those in the crowd were primarily hospital employees, upset that Melania Trump's visit would create a public photo opportunity aligning members of the Trump administration with Boston Medical Center, 30% of whose patients don't speak English as a primary language, according to the hospital's website.
"Mrs. Trump enjoyed visiting Boston Medical Center to meet with the center's leadership and medical staff and learn about the impressive programs available that support and provide care to mothers struggling with drug addiction and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome," said Stephanie Grisham, who serves as the East Wing communications director as well as the President's press secretary.
Melania Trump is traveling today with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. The intention of her trip was not immigration, but "Be Best," her multi-pronged platform addressing the health and wellness of children. This visit specifically focused on babies born with medical issues, such as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, as a result of mothers who abused opioids while pregnant.
Protesters signs read: "We Care for All!" and "Exceptional Care, No Exceptions!" Two workers were spotted having written, "We really care, do u?" in large letters on the backs of their white lab coats, a play on the "I really don't care, do u?" jacket the first lady wore on her trip to and from an immigration intake center in Texas last year.
The protesters' main goal, according to organizers, was to show patient support, especially for immigrants.
"She's Melania Trump. She's married to Donald Trump," protester Sara Stulac told WBZ-TV. "He is such a symbol of so much of what we stand against, so much hatred and division."
Wednesday's gathering of protesters was the most significant in Trump's tenure as first lady during a solo trip.
Boston Medical Center's president and CEO Kate Walsh has been aware of the planned employee protest for several days, having received a letter from organizers requesting she cancel Trump's visit. Walsh sent an email to the hospital's 6,000 employees, saying of her decision to keep the first lady's plans intact, "the visit will be a unique opportunity to share our values of respect and inclusion with federal leaders whose policies have a significant impact on the vulnerable populations we are dedicated to serving."
"Two-thirds of our patients have some form of government insurance, and our health plan is the largest participant in the state's Medicaid accountable care organization, so the opportunity to highlight the innovative work we are doing is critical to ensuring that we are able to continue to deliver on our mission well into the future," she added, according to the email obtained by the Boston Globe.
In opening remarks to staff during her visit on Wednesday, Trump, dressed in a black turtleneck sweater beneath a green coat, did not address the protest. Instead, she said was there to talk about the opioid crisis affecting families with babies and young children.
"I hope today's visit helps shine a light," Trump said. "It is my hope that what we discuss today will encourage others to replicate similar programs within their own communities."
Trump was particularly interested in Boston Medical Center's Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress program, which consists of medical staff, parents and trained volunteers cradling babies in an effort to lower their stress levels as they experience withdrawal symptoms from having been exposed in utero to drug use by their mothers.
Trump toured the hospital's pediatric unit and met with families and children who have completed substance programs at Boston Medical Center.
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