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Minority Lawmakers Protest and Boycott Trump Appearance in Jamestown

Trump gives speech at Jamestown

President Donald Trump stuck to his script in a visit to Jamestown on Tuesday in the face of protests and boycotts from Democrats. It was a marked shift from comments earlier in the day, when the president continued his assault on the majority-black city of Baltimore, and on Elijah Cummings, the African American Congressman who represents parts of it.

Before setting out for Jamestown, the president claimed without evidence that Baltimore was corrupt.

“Billions and billions of dollars have been given to Baltimore,” Trump said. “It's been misspent. It's been missing. It's been stolen.”

A short trip later and Trump was in a giant air-conditioned tent in Jamestown, about a mile from where the Virginia Company of London’s assembly met on a sweltering day 400 years ago.

Those early representatives were all white landholders; the first enslaved Africans arrived on a trade ship a few weeks later. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Trump said African Americans had faced centuries of cruelty.

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

Those words rang hollow to Del. Ibraheem Samirah, a young, Muslim-American Democrat who was elected in January to represent parts of Fairfax County. In protest of Trump’s speech, Del. Ibraheem Samirah stood up and shouted over the president, holding a sign saying “Go back to your corrupted home” and “Deport Hate.”

He was escorted out to chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” from some audience members. The president did not address the commotion but later told reporters that Samirah “didn’t look so good to me.”

Most Democrats sat out Trump’s speech, and Virginia’s legislative black caucus boycotted the event entirely. They spent part of the morning in Richmond at the site of the old Lumpkins Jail -- an infamous holding area for slaves that is now a grassy lot. The black caucus set out to recognize black Virginians’ contributions over the last 400 years, since the arrival of those first Africans from what is today Angola.

Del. Marcia Price (D - Newport News) said Trump’s comments towards black politicians made him the wrong choice for today’s event.

“This to me was a protest against someone who has, both in word and policy stood against my very existence,” Price said. “When you tell someone that looks like me, a group of women that look like me, that they should go back to where they came from --- I'm from Newport News, Virginia.”

Republican lawmakers said Democrats missed a chance to put partisanship aside and celebrate a key historical event.

“I think once we devolve into that type of, you know, partisanship, that's not what today's about,” said GOP Speaker of the House Kirk Cox.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment went a step farther.

“I was very proud of [Trump] that he did stay on message when that ill-advised little bastard decided to make a scene of it,” Norment said. “The president was unflappable.”



Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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