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Trump hails civil rights heroes; protesters pan his record

  • President Donald Trump speaks at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • NAACP President Derrick Johnson, right, speaks with Dr. Robert Smith, former president of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, after a speech Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, denouncing the visit of President Donald Trump in Jackson, Miss., for the opening of twin history and civil rights museums marking Mississippi's bicentennial. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy) Jeff Amy

  • President Donald Trump, left, listens as Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, right, shows him the Hinds County Jail on display at the newly-opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • Keller White of Jackson, Miss., protests Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, against the visit of President Donald Trump in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy) Jeff Amy

  • Gladys Bunzy, of Jackson, Miss., protests Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, against the visit of President Donald Trump in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy) Jeff Amy

  • President Donald Trump (left) gets a tour of the newly-opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., on Saturday. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant watches at right. AP

  • President Donald Trump walks down the steps of Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. Trump is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., after attending the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh



Associated Press
Saturday, December 09, 2017

President Donald Trump paid tribute Saturday to the leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement whose sacrifices help make the United States a fairer and more just country, though protests surrounding his visit to Mississippi laid bare the stark divisions among Americans about his commitment to that legacy.

As Trump gazed at an exhibit on Freedom Riders at the new Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, demonstrators near the site held up signs that said “Make America Civil Again” and “Lock Him Up.” Some shouted “No Trump, no hate, no KKK in the USA.”

Trump spent about 30 minutes at the museums, gave a 10-minute speech to select guests inside and then flew back to his Florida estate, skipping the public schedule of the dedication ceremony held outside on a chilly day. He spent more time getting to Jackson than he did on the ground.

Trump’s remarks steered clear of addressing the anger that his participation had sparked leading up to the dedication. In a deliberate voice and rarely diverting from his prepared words, the president sought to honor the famous and the anonymous for their efforts on behalf of freedom for all.

“The civil rights museum records the oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, the fight to bring down Jim Crow and end segregation, to gain the right to vote and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality. And it’s big stuff. That’s big stuff,” he said.

“Those are very big phrases, very big words. Here we memorialize the brave men and women who struggled to sacrifice and sacrifice so much so that others might live in freedom,” he said.

The national president of the NAACP and the mayor of Mississippi’s capital city said they kept their distance from Trump because of his “pompous disregard” for the values embodied by the civil rights movement.

Derrick Johnson, head of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, and Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said at a news conference that they looked forward to a “grander opening” of the museum that they can attend.

Johnson, a Mississippian, charged that Trump opposes labor rights, education, health care and voting rights for all Americans.

“We will never cede the stage to an individual who will fight against us,” Johnson said. “We will not allow the history of those who sacrificed to be tarnished for political expediency.”

Johnson and Lumumba spoke to about 100 supporters, including some who participated in the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, at Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. Once the first public school built for African-Americans in Jackson, it’s now a museum to black history and culture.

Lumumba called Trump to task for “his pompous disregard for all of those factors that will not enable us to stand with him today.”

The state’s attorney general, Jim Hood, criticized Republican Gov. Phil Bryant for inviting Trump. “It threw cold water in the face of people who fought the battles for civil rights,” Hood said.

Bryant, who introduced Trump, spoke of “the emotion that comes over you in waves as you see the past, the struggle, the conflict. I’m so very proud today that the president of the United States was here to see and witness it.”

Trump reflected on the past and hoped for a bright future, drawing on the achievements of civil rights veterans:

“Today we strive to be worthy of their sacrifice. We pray for inspiration from their example. 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. Today we pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past and dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice and peace.”

He called the museums “labors of love – love for Mississippi, love for your nation, love for God-given dignity written into every human soul.”