Just ahead of the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, leaders from the civil rights movement and the local community blasted President Donald Trump’s attendance as an affront to the spirit of the event.
“He does not deserve to be in Jackson for the celebration of the civil rights museum opening,” civil rights activist Amos Brown, a board member of the NAACP, said at a press conference in the city on Saturday. He slammed Trump for “not showing up for our civil rights” both before and during his presidency.
“We respect your office but … we do not respect your attitude and your division of the nation,” he continued.
The speakers hit Trump on his White House record, including his efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and enact a travel ban, saying such moves were incongruous with the work of the civil rights movement.
“It is my appreciation for the legacy of the individuals who stand with me today, it is my appreciation for the Mississippi martyrs that are not here, the names both known and unknown, that will not allow me, that will not allow many of us standing today, to share a stage with the President; to share a stage with an individual who has not demonstrated a continuing commitment to civil rights, a continuing commitment to human rights, a continuing commitment to women’s rights,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “It is his pompous disregard for all of those factors that will not enable us to stand with him.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson dismissed Trump’s attendance at the event as “a photo opportunity.”
Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson had been scheduled to attend the press conference, but organizers said he was delayed due to travel problems.
Thompson had initially praised the President’s decision to attend the museum’s opening, saying he hoped it would help Trump “understand the pain he is causing the black and underserved communities across America.”
However, Thompson later released a joint statement with Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis saying, “President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.”
The congressmen, both of whom were involved in the civil rights movement, said they planned to skip the opening event because of Trump’s attendance.
The White House said it was “unfortunate” that the two would not be attending.
“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday. “The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”
The President has a contentious history with Lewis and has caused controversy for his comments on race. Trump faced bipartisan backlash prior to his inauguration for calling the civil rights leader “all talk” and “no action.” He was widely criticized for racially charged remarks he made in the wake of a deadly incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, when protesters clashed over the removal of a Confederate statue.
Just the night before the opening of the Civil Rights Museum, Trump rallied for Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who recently praised the era of US history that included slaverybecause, according to Moore, families were stronger. Moore is facing accusations that he pursued relationships with teenagers, molested a 14-year-old, and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old when he was in his 30s. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.