Trump’s speech in Jamestown interrupted by protester, boycotted by black lawmakers

President Trump on Tuesday commemorated the 400th anniversary of the first meeting of elected legislators in America, delivering a speech that was boycotted by state lawmakers of color furious over the president’s rhetoric, one of whom interrupted the event to protest.

The president, whose recent comments about Baltimore, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and other minority lawmakers have sparked controversy, addressed Virginia lawmakers and state officials in Jamestown, Va., where they gathered to honor the Joint Commemorative Session of the Virginia General Assembly. 

{mosads}Part way through his remarks, a protester stood up and began chanting, seizing on Trump’s tweets earlier this month telling four congresswomen to “go back” where they came from.

“Mr. President, you cannot send us back. Virginia is our home,” chanted the protester, who later identified himself as state Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D).

Samirah carried a sign that read “go back to your corrupted home,” “deport hate” and “reunite my family and all shattered by systemic discrimination.”

Supporters sought to drown him out with chants of “Trump!” but the president did not personally address the demonstration. Oftentimes at campaign rallies, Trump will denigrate those who interrupt him to protest.

Following the event, Samirah tweeted that he interrupted Trump’s address “because nobody’s racism and bigotry should be excused for the sake of being polite.”

Sabirah drew criticism during his General Assembly campaign earlier this year after old social media posts in which he fiercely criticized Israel were resurfaced by his opponent. Sabirah, who is Palestinian American, apologized for the messages and claimed he was the victim of a “smear campaign,” according to The Washington Post.

Trump’s appearance at the Jamestown Settlement Museum has been a source of contention in the commonwealth.

Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) announced Monday it would boycott Trump’s appearance, citing his “repeated attacks on black legislators and comments about black communities.”

“The absence of the VLBC will send the message that the members do not condone the President’s participation and all that is represented by his attending this commemoration,” the group said in a statement. “Those who have chosen to attend and remain silent are complicit in the atrocities that he incites.”

Congressional lawmakers condemned Trump’s comments as racist earlier this month after he told four congresswomen of color to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All four are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the country.

The president again drew accusations of racism over the weekend by repeatedly attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) and the majority-black Maryland district he represents. He has been unrelenting in his criticisms of the city of Baltimore, calling it “rat-infested” and a place that “no human being would want to live.”

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is black, attended Tuesday’s event and was seated behind Trump. In an essay published last week, Fairfax wrote that the “celebration of the birth of democracy in America and the honor of standing in the footsteps of my enslaved ancestors as a statewide elected official far supersede the petty and racist actions of the current occupant of the White House.”

Fairfax and other top state officials were roiled by scandals earlier this year.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) apologized for then later denied appearing in a college yearbook wearing blackface. Fairfax was accused of sexual assault and denied the allegations. And Attorney General Mark Herring (D) admitted to wearing blackface in college.

All three men resisted calls to resign.

Trump avoided controversy in his remarks on Tuesday, recounting the struggles and legacy of those who founded Virginia’s first legislative body, which became the precursor to state legislatures and Congress.

“Self-government in Virginia did not just give us a state we — in a very true sense, it gave us the country we love, the United States of America,” Trump said.

He also noted that 2019 marked 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia.

Trump acknowledged the “barbaric trade” would not be abolished until the Civil War and recognized that it took another century before the civil rights movement.

“In the face of grave oppression and grave injustice African Americans have built, strengthened, inspired, uplifted, protected, defended and sustained our nation from its very earliest days,” Trump said.

Before departing the White House for Jamestown, Trump asserted that he is the “least racist person anywhere in the world” as he continued to blast Baltimore and its leaders for the conditions of the city.

Without citing specifics, Trump said that he has “received more phone calls” than on any other issue previously from Baltimore residents who have expressed gratitude for his comments.

“They’re largely African American. … They really appreciate what I’m doing and they’ve let me know it,” the president said.

Updated at 3:19 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Elijah Cummings
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