Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) was one of the most prominent faces of the civil rights movement. When the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum opens this weekend, Lewis won't be in attendance.
Lewis announced his decision to skip the event in response to the news that President Donald Trump would be in attendance, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday.
Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders and one of the Big Six leaders of the civil rights movement. His tireless work saw him beaten, bloodied, and arrested. To this day, he still bears the scars on his face he received from the nightstick of an Alabama state trooper while marching in Selma on Bloody Sunday.
“Right now, we're not going,” Lewis told the Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “But there's a possibility that the hit man may not show up, may cancel.”
In a joint statement with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Lewis expanded on the decision:
After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights activists, and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
President Trump's attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum. The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi. President Trump's disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants, and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.
After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum.
The feud between Trump and Lewis dates back to comments Lewis made before Trump's inauguration, questioning the legitimacy of Trump's presidency. Trump fired back on Twitter, insulting the congressional district Lewis represents, and Lewis responded by skipping the inauguration altogether.
“I think [Trump's] presence would make a mockery of everything that people tried to do to redeem the soul of America and to make this country better,” Lewis said Wednesday.
UPDATE [12/7/2017, 4:35p.m. EST]:
White House Press Secretary Sanders provided the following statement via pool report:
"We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history. The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”