WASHINGTON — Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the Big Six civil-rights leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington, said he will not attend this weekend’s opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum because President Trump’s presence at the event will dishonor civil rights legends.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Tuesday that Trump is planning a Saturday trip to Mississippi, “where they are celebrating the state’s bicentennial, 200 years of statehood.”
“To mark the occasion, the president will participate in the grand openings of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” Sanders said. The two museums are adjacent and the free opening day celebration will include music and food trucks.
The NAACP said Tuesday that Trump should not attend. “President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement,” NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “He has created a commission to reinforce voter suppression, refused to denounce white supremacists, and overall, has created a racially hostile climate in this nation.”
NAACP board member and Jackson, Miss., native Amos Brown added, “As a freedom fighter and contemporary of Emmett Till, Trump’s visit is an insult. He has never been a supporter of civil rights or equal opportunity or justice. He’s been silent on civil rights issues, and his silence speaks volumes.”
Sanders said that the NAACP response, along with pledges from local African-American ministers to protest Trump’s visit, were “very sad.”
“I think this is something that should bring the country together to celebrate the opening of this museum and highlighting a civil rights movement and the progress that we’ve made. And I would hope that those individuals would join in that celebration, instead of protesting it,” she said. “However, they have every right to protest it.”
Today, Lewis and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) issued a joint statement: “After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights activists, and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.”
“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum. The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi,” the congressmen said. “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.”
“After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum,” Lewis and Thompson added.
Sanders replied in a statement issued to the White House press corps, “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. The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”