U.S. President Donald Trump has drawn strong criticism for his appearance Saturday at the opening of a museum dedicated to Mississippi’s history and its role in the civil rights movement.
About 50 protesters gathered Saturday outside the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the adjoining Museum of Mississippi History, while the U.S. president was given a tour, before delivering a speech.
Some black leaders, including civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis, boycotted the event, saying Trump has sown racial division instead of racial harmony.
Lewis had been expected to be one of the main speakers, but on Friday he called Trump’s attendance an “insult” as he announced he was withdrawing from the event.
Lewis, a Democrat, issued a joint statement with U.S. Rep Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only Democrat in Congress, accusing Trump of “disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players.”
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, the only statewide elected official who’s a Democrat, declined an invitation to go inside the museums to meet Trump. Hood instead mingled with the public at the ceremony outside.
The national president of the NAACP and the mayor of Jackson also decided not to attend the opening. They said they can’t share a stage with Trump in Mississippi because of his “pompous disregard” for the values embodied by the civil rights movement.
“These buildings embody the hope that has lived in the hearts of every American for generations, the hope in a future that is more just and more free,” Trump said in his speech.
One of the protesters, Laurie Bertram Roberts, told CBC News that Trump had “no place” at the event and that he has a “horrible record on civil rights, human rights.”
She said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant should also have missed the event, after proclaiming April of this year to be Confederate Heritage Month in his state.