Visit thedmonline.com today and tomorrow for updates on this developing story and coverage of Saturday’s ceremony.
President Donald Trump’s upcoming stop in Jackson for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum’s opening ceremony has triggered a firestorm response from politicians and civil rights activists. This week, a handful of state leaders decided to boycott Saturday’s ceremony in protest of Trump’s visit.
Gov. Phil Bryant personally invited Trump to attend the museum’s opening ceremony as part of Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration, and CNN reported Monday that the president accepted. Since then, other Mississippi politicians have criticized Bryant’s offer.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only Democratic congressman, was quick to speak up in opposition to the president’s proposed visit. In a statement released Monday, Thompson compared Trump’s policies to the Jim Crow era.
“With President Donald Trump accepting Gov. Phil Bryant’s invitation to attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, I am hopeful he will begin to understand the pain he is causing in the black and underserved communities across America,” Thompson said. “His unfair budget cuts in agriculture, education, healthcare and housing disproportionately impacts people of color and is viewed by many as an act reminiscent of Jim Crow policies of the south.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, later joined Thompson in condemning Trump’s visit. The two congressmen released a joint statement on Thursday explaining their decision. Lewis has served Georgia’s 5th congressional district since 1987 and has long been on the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. The 77-year-old was one of the original Freedom Riders and helped organize the March on Washington.
In their statement, Lewis and Thompson contrasted Trump’s ideology with the efforts of civil rights leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamner and Medgar Evers.
“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum,” they said. “The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has also offered formal criticism of Trump’s scheduled presence in Jackson. NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing Trump’s approach to civil rights issues.
“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,” Johnson said. “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.”
Amos Brown, a Jackson native and NAACP San Francisco Branch President, echoed Johnson’s concerns about Trump’s silence on civil rights.
“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,” Brown said.
Yesterday, former Democratic governor Ray Malbus tweeted that he, too, plans to stay away from the opening ceremonies due to Trump’s presence.
“His support of white supremacists and racism exact opposite of what [the museum] is about,” Malbus said.
After carrying the support of the state’s black population to election, Malbus served as governor from 1988 to 1992. He sought to represent a progressive Mississippi, passed record legislation to improve education and did not win re-election in 1991.
While these leaders and other activists across the state have spoken up, Bryant stands by Trump’s visit. On Wednesday, he called for Mississippians to join together and welcome the president.
Mississippi should be proud that @POTUS has agreed to speak at the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
The world will be watching our Bicentennial celebration. Let us come together as one Mississippi. pic.twitter.com/QA8KKjP2yz
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) December 6, 2017
Trump is not slated to formally address the crowd at Saturday’s ceremony. Bryant’s office announced yesterday that the president will instead tour the museum and then speak privately to a group of “civil rights veterans, museum patrons and elected officials.”