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Thursday, December 7, 2017
White House: ‘UFORTUNATE’ if Lewis, Congressional Members Skip Civil Rights Event Because of Trump
Dave Boyer and Sally Persons Two black House Democrats said Thursday they willboycottPresidentTrump’s opening of Mississippi’s civil rights and history museums this weekend, saying his attendance is an “insult.”
Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi citedMr. Trump’s “disrespect” for NFL football players, among their other grievances with the president.
“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.”
Mr. Lewis had been expected to be one of the featured speakers at the museums’ openings.
The White House said the events on Saturday will go on without the pair of lawmakers.
“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,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
The Saturday ceremony will mark Mississippi’s bicentennial of admission into the Union, and Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant invited the president to attend.
The NAACP has said Mr. Trump should skip the event because of what it called his divisive record on civil rights.
Mr. Lewis and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January, with Mr. Lewis saying Mr. Trump was not a “legitimate president.”
At the time, Mr. Trump responded on Twitter that Mr. Lewis was: “All talk, talk, talk — no action or results.”
Several other Democrats in Mississippi have responded to Mr. Trump’s planned appearance with calls for a boycott. The chair of the state’s black legislative caucus, Democratic Rep. Sonya Williams Barnes of Gulfport, is urging people to stay away from Saturday’s events.
“I will await a time to visit the museum with my family without the president disrespecting the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms I am privileged to have today,” Ms. Barnes said.
Mr. Bryant, who has made frequent trips to Washington to work with Mr. Trump, is urging Mississippians to embrace the president’s visit, saying it will help bring worldwide attention to the state and the museums.
“We are better than that,” Mr. Bryant said of those who oppose Mr. Trump. “We are kinder and more tolerant here in Mississippi than I think perhaps other places. Allow the president to come and honor Mississippi with his speech and his presence.”
Mr. Lewis is a civil-rights icon who was arrested in Jackson in 1961 with Freedom Riders protesting segregated bus travel. He also organized Freedom Summer, a volunteer effort to register voters in Mississippi in 1964. He was beaten by police during the Selma-Montgomery voting rights march of 1965.
Myrlie Evers, the widow of assassinated Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, has said she will address Mr. Trump’s presence.
“If God gives me the breath and the strength, I will address his attendance when I stand to speak,” she told The New York Times.
Two museums are being dedicated under one roof on Saturday. A museum of Mississippi History covers 15,000 years of human habitation. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum focuses primarily on the years 1945 to 1976, telling about efforts to break down segregation and bigotry, and the violent backlash against that work.
— This article is based in part on wire-service reports.