December 8, 2017 11:14:42 AM
JACKSON -- U.S. Rep John Lewis announced Thursday that he won't speak at the opening of Mississippi civil rights and history museums, saying it's an "insult" that President Donald Trump will attend.
The long-planned Saturday ceremony will mark Mississippi's bicentennial of admission into the union. But what was intended as a moment of racial unity and atonement in the state with the largest share of African-Americans is descending into racial and partisan strife after Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant invited fellow Republican Trump to attend.
The NAACP has said Trump should cancel his planned appearance because of his divisive record on civil rights issues.
Lewis announced his decision in a joint statement with U.S. Rep Bennie Thompson, Mississippi's only Democrat in Congress.
"President Trump's attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum," they 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."
Lewis and Thompson join some other prominent Democrats in the state who have pulled out since Trump's visit was announced. The chair of the state's black legislative caucus, Democratic Rep. Sonya Williams Barnes of Gulfport, is urging people to stay away from Saturday's events.
"I will await a time to visit the museum with my family without the president disrespecting the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms I am privileged to have today," Barnes said Wednesday.
Lewis has been expected to be one of the main speakers at the event, along with Myrlie Evers, the widow of assassinated Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers. Evers has said she will address Trump's presence, although the president is likely to be gone by the time she speaks. A schedule released Thursday by Bryant's office shows Trump speaking briefly inside the museum, but not outside during the main ceremony.
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