Trump salutes civil rights heroes at boycotted museum opening

Jackson, United States | AFP | Donald Trump called for an end to racial hatred Saturday at the launch of a museum dedicated to victims of white-supremacist violence in America’s Deep South, a ceremony boycotted by several black leaders.

The Republican president’s attendance at the gathering to open the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which came at the invitation of the state’s Republican governor, had triggered a backlash from some who marched in the movement to win those rights, including veteran Congressman John Lewis.

Lewis — who also drew Trump’s ire by skipping the presidential inauguration in January — said Friday that the president’s “attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.”

Trump, in his remarks to invited guests prior to the museum’s public opening, emphasized the new institution’s recording of “the oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African American community, the fight to end slavery.”

“We want our country to be a place where every child from every background can grow up free from fear, innocent of hatred and surrounded by love, opportunity and hope,” he said.

‘Bloody Sunday’ –

Small protests turned out in Jackson against the president’s presence, which was also boycotted by the city’s mayor and the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Several racially charged controversies have beset the Trump administration in its first year, notably his reaction to an August rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump came under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike after he failed to definitively condemn the role of white supremacists in the event, which turned violent and left one woman dead.

In 1965, Georgia Democrat Lewis led a landmark civil-rights march in Selma, Alabama that prompted state troopers to attack the protesters during what later became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis suffered a fractured skull.

In his speech, Trump said that “to end segregation, to gain the right to vote and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality” is “big stuff.”

Afterward, he returned to Twitter to express his “great honor” at the ceremony and “pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past & dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice & peace.”

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