An event to mark the 400th anniversary of the legislative start of Jamestown, Va.,—the English colonial settlement that saw the first captive Africans arrive on these shores—was boycotted by much of the state’s black caucus, as well as other Democrats, and openly protested by another, due to the presence of one Donald J. Trump.
According to the Washington Post, Trump, who provided a key speech at the commemorative event in Jamestown, Va., pretty much stuck to remarks prepared for him (which had state Republicans
praising God feeling pleased) but his recent swath of incendiary and racist tweets were too much for many of Virginia’s black lawmakers and other Democrats to co-sign in any way.
One Democratic lawmaker—Del. Ibraheem Samirah—stood up to protest during Trump’s speech. As the Post reports:
“Virginia is our home! You can’t send me back!” Samirah shouted. Trump fell silent, and then the crowd began to shout and boo. Police escorted Samirah out.
“Here in Virginia we’re going to make it clear that democracy is for all, not just the privileged,” Samirah said later, citing Trump’s recent comments that four congresswomen of color should “go back” where they came from, as well as the treatment of immigrants at the Mexican border.
His sign read “Deport Hate” and “Go back to your corrupted home.”
So, rather than go to Jamestown, many members of the state’s black caucus, joined by some of their white Democratic colleagues, commemorated the day with an event in Richmond.
“We wanted to reflect this morning, this week, this year on the good, the bad and certainly not forget the ugly,” Del. Lamont Bagby, chairman of the caucus, said, the Post reported.
Taking time to remember the sacrifices of the earliest black lawmakers in Virginia, during the Reconstruction period, Bagby added: “That is the passion that has drawn us to this space instead of Jamestown today.”
Democrats told the Post they were taking issue with Trump’s racism, as opposed to his policy.
“I’m just appalled that he’s chosen race as the fundamental basis for his campaign for re-election,” a white state delegate, Mark D. Sickles, told the Post. “This is not a dog whistle, it’s a foghorn. This is plain, out-and-out racism.”
Furthermore, as the Post explained, “the caucus accused those who chose to attend and remain silent of being complicit in Trump’s racism.”
And at least one prominent black Democrat did stay for Trump’s speech: Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Per the Post:
The second African American to hold statewide office and a descendant of a slave, Fairfax said he stayed because the event was bigger than any one person. He did not clap for Trump, but shook the president’s hand at the start and finish of the speech, and Trump thanked him by name during his remarks.
“The words I heard the president say in that speech were in many ways the right words, but are often directly contradicted by his actions,” Fairfax told the news site later, describing Trump’s “rhetoric toward people of color divisive.”