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Trump salutes civil rights heroes at boycotted museum opening
U.S. President Donald Trump visits the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, December 9, 2017. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is a museum in Jackson, Mississippi with the mission to document, exhibit the history of, and educate the public about the American Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. state of Mississippi between 1945 and 1970. Nicholas Kamm / AFP.

by Nicholas Kamm


JACKSON (AFP).- US leader 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 president's attendance at a private gathering to open the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History next door, 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 US congressman John Lewis.

Lewis -- a Democratic lawmaker from Georgia who also skipped Trump's 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."

Democratic US congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi joined Lewis in the boycott.

Trump did not reference the controversy in his tribute, opting instead to stay on script.

In his remarks to invited guests prior to the museum's public opening, the president 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'
Trump honored the legacy of slain activist Medgar Evers, whose widow and brother were in attendance, as well as Martin Luther King Jr -- "a man we have studied and watched and admired for my entire life."

He called the museum "an incredible tribute to Mississippi, a state I love; a state I've had great success."

"This is a tribute to our nation at the highest level."

Afterward, he took 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."

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, Lewis -- one of King's closest collaborators -- 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.

When Lewis bowed out of the president's inauguration ceremony earlier this year, Trump called him "all talk" and "not action or results."


© Agence France-Presse





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