Race Relations

Trump Aides Add Black Minister to Prime-Time After Police Killings

Pastor Mark Burns "will be talking about unity and love" following the latest police killings.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he leaves after speaking at a rally on April 24, 2016, in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Photographer: Molly RRiley/AFP via Getty Images

A prominent African American evangelical leader has been added to a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention -- a last-minute scheduling change by Trump campaign strategists in the wake the shooting deaths of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

Pastor Mark Burns, who often opens for Trump at his campaign rallies, will deliver a speech with a message that focusses on the need for bridging divisions in America. 

"Unity -- that's the central theme to my message," Burns said. "We need to talk about coming together as a nation. I will be talking about unity and love. We must not be focused on our divisions. We are one people. We need unity and love."

At the convention in Cleveland, Ohio, which begins on Monday, Burns told Bloomberg Politics that he will make reference to the police officers who were killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge as well as the recent killings of African Americans by law enforcement.

On Sunday morning, three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers, called to a report of a man with an assault rifle, were shot dead, and three other officers were wounded. The shooter was killed, authorities said.

President Barack Obama warned against “overheated" rhetoric in the aftermath of the latest violence and asked Americans to focus on unifying words and actions.

"Our nation's soul is hurting and we need to come together," Burns said. "It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or young or old or rich or poor -- we have to come together to begin to heal this country."

Burns is also speaking on Monday, although not in prime time. He was notified from campaign officials during a walk-through of the Quicken Loans Arena Sunday evening that he was added to the Thursday line-up. 

"I'm extremely humbled," he said. "It's a privilege and an honor."

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