U.S. Rep. John Lewis won’t attend civil rights museum opening

CLOSE Mississippi Civil Legal rights Museum Director Pamela Junior discusses the new museum’s central exhibition before presenting a question which may provoke introspection on visitors. Sarah Warnock

Congressman John Lewis (Image: The Washington Post)

U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Bennie Thompson will stay away from Saturday’s starting of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, citing the attendance of President Donald Trump.

Lewis and Thompson, both Democratic leaders, decided to attend Saturday.

In a joint statement, they said that “Trump’s attendance and his hurtful plans are an insult to the persons portrayed in this civil rights museum. The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the reality of what really took place in Mississippi. President Trump’s disparaging comments about ladies, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players disrespect the initiatives of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and many others who have offered their all for Mississippi to be an improved place.”

After Trump departs, “we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to go to this historic civil rights museum.”

In response to the boycott by the two congressmen, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated, “We think it’s unfortunate these users of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to proper the injustices inside our history. The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the activity was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of most backgrounds.”

Lewis and Trump have tangled before.

After Lewis questioned whether Trump was a “legitimate president” and boycotted Trump’s inauguration, Trump fired back on Twitter: “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not forgetting crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”

Past Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus says he won’t go to starting of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum as a result of President Donald Trump’s decision to wait. (Image: Deobrah Barfield Berry/USA TODAY)

Gov. Phil Bryant invited Trump to wait Saturday’s openings of the civil privileges museum and the History of Mississippi Museum within Mississippi’s 200th birthday.

On Thursday, former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus declared he won’t be going to the museum opening.

“This institution and event ought to be a celebration of the hard-won progress in civil rights, but the main speaker, Donald Trump, is actively attacking that progress and turning us back to the dark days of hatred and division,” he said. “Donald Trump represents the exact contrary of what this museum is approximately – honoring the heroes who fought for, and often died for, the thought of equality of most. Donald Trump’s phrases and deeds show he would not stand with persons like Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and so many, many more.”

Express Rep. Sonya Williams Barnes, D-Gulfport, who seats the Black Caucus, said she actually is staying aside Saturday as a result of the president’s “disrespect” for African Americans and others, but plans to wait the museum after with her family.

“I cannot express my gratitude enough to those heroes and ‘she-roes’ who are appearing honored inside our museum,” she said. “The leaders staying honored in the museum had been murdered at the whim of a lawless mob, and could not sit openly in public areas buildings and public transportation. These icons had been witnesses that weeping may endure for a evening, but joy comes into play the morning. It has been an extended night, Mississippi.”

Others have also announced they are actually boycotting or protesting.

Mississippi’s civil privileges museum is the nation’s first such state-sponsored civil privileges museum. The state put in $90 million on both museums, and another $19 million was privately raised for exhibits and endowments.

The museums will open with a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday on the lands at 222 North St., a block west of the Mississippi Express Fairgrounds.

Speakers includes the widow of Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers, as well as Gov. Phil Bryant and former governors Haley Barbour and William F. Winter.

In a joint statement Thursday, Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Bishop Brian R. Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. of The United Methodist Church praised the two museums and stated the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum can “serve as a significant acknowledgement and affirmation by our condition not merely of its accomplishments but of its sometimes bloody and shameful history. Our hope, certainly our common prayer, is normally that the Museum will help us maneuver toward specific and collective reconciliation for the hurts, injustices, prejudices, failures, violence and omissions of the past and empower approaching generations of Mississippians to do justice and take pleasure in mercy.”

The bishops said they wish Trump “will use his attendance at the opening of the museums and the Bicentennial Special event to acknowledge the sacrifice and witness of many individuals who offered themselves, their souls and bodies, to eradicate injustice and oppression inside our state. Our state’s Bicentennial is a trigger for celebration. May in addition, it be an occasion for all of us to launch innovative and meaningful initiatives of reconciliation and healing.”

Contact Jerry Mitchell in 601-961-7064 or jmitchell@gannett.com. Carry out him on Facebook and Twitter.

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