U.S. Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, is one of the country’s best known living icons of the fight for civil rights in the 1960s.
But Lewis said Thursday he will refuse to attend Saturday’s opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum if President Donald Trump will be there.
Lewis and Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson issued a joint statement calling it an “insult” that Trump will be on hand to inaugurate the museum.
“President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants and National Football League players” disrespect those who fought for and died for equal rights for African-Americans, their statement said.
A number of other black politicians have also said they will boycott the museum’s opening. The country’s premier civil rights group, the NAACP, called Trump’s record in enforcing civil rights “abysmal.”
Lewis marched alongside the legendary Martin Luther King Jr., was a freedom rider protesting segregation throughout the southern U.S., spent time in a brutal Mississippi prison, and was badly beaten by police during the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march in Alabama in 1965.
Lewis has been one of the president’s severest critics, questioning his legitimacy, voting for failed impeachment measures and boycotting the presidential inauguration.
Trump has been equally harsh on Lewis, describing the congressman as “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results” and disparaging his district as crime-ridden and falling apart.
The White House says it is “unfortunate” Lewis and Thompson will not join Trump in honoring “the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.”
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will be dedicated Saturday in Jackson. It will feature a stark look at the often bloody struggle for civil rights in the American South from 1945 through 1976.
Exhibits include such weapons of terror and hate as a Ku Klux Klan cross and the gun used to murder activist Medgar Evers.