Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Bennie Thompson announced Thursday they will not attend President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, calling the trip “an insult” to the African-Americans commemorated there.
“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum,” Thompson (D-Miss.) and Lewis (D-Ga.) said in a joint statement.
Trump is scheduled to appear at the opening of the museum in Jackson, Mississippi, on Saturday. The museum, according to its website, will feature galleries that hearken back to a time “when Mississippi was ground zero for the national Civil Rights Movement.”
Trump’s attendance has come under fire from civil rights groups, with the NAACP casting it as an “affront” to African-Americans.
“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 chief executive Derrick Johnson said in a statement earlier this week.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it “unfortunate” that Lewis and Thompson would miss an event “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,” she said according to a press pool report.
Lewis, a former civil rights organizer who worked in Mississippi during the 1960s, previously sparred with Trump after the Georgia lawmaker said Trump would not be a “legitimate president” prior to his inauguration, an event he boycotted in protest. He also took exception to Trump saying as a candidate that African-American communities were in the “worst shape they’ve ever been in before.”
“Is he talking about worse than slavery? Worse than the system of segregation and racial discrimination — when we couldn’t take a seat at the lunch counter and be served? Worse than being denied the right to register to vote, to participate in the democratic process and live in certain neighborhoods and communities?” Lewis said during an MSNBC interview last September.