WASHINGTON – Several top Virginia Democrats will boycott a ceremony commemorating the 400th anniversary of American democracy in Jamestown after the White House confirmed President Donald Trump will deliver remarks Tuesday morning.
The state Democratic legislative caucus and the Black Legislative Caucus both said Monday they would boycott the ceremony. The decision comes at a time when Trump has heighten racial tensions with a series of tweets critical of black lawmakers in Washington.
“We will not be attending any part of the commemorative session where Donald Trump is in attendance,” the Virginia House Democrats said on Twitter. “The current President does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world.
Virginia State Democrats Eileen Filler-Corn, Charniele Herring, Dick Saslaw and Mamie Locke also had a piece of advice to the Jamestown-Yorktown foundation, to “Send Him Back,” referring to Trump.
“Send her back” chants erupted at a Trump rally as the president criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar for her “contempt” for the “hard-working Americans.” Storyful
The Black Legislative Caucus announced Monday that it also will not attend the celebration since Trump’s participation is “antithetical to the principles” that the group stands for. Caucus members have instead planned alternative commemorative events Tuesday in Richmond.
“Surely there’s a better voice for such an occasion,” Delegate Lamont Bagby –who heads the black caucus– wrote on Twitter.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney resigned from the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s steering committee for the commemoration event, writing in his resignation letter that Trump “denigrates our democracy” and has no place at the event.
This ceremony is a part of “American Evolution,” a longer celebration, which is celebrating key moments of Virginia history during the year 1619. The Jamestown settlement was the first English permanent colony in America.
Along with it being the first English colony it also established the first ‘General Assembly,’ which was composed of men from Virginia’s 11 major settlement and met from July 30 to August 4, 1619.
Virginia Democratic lawmakers criticized Gov. Ralph Northam and event organizers for inviting Trump to the ceremony. Northam was among several state officials who invited Trump to the ceremony in an August 2018 letter obtained by the Washington Post.
Northam will not weigh in on whether Trump should still be invited to attend the celebration, said spokeswomen Alena Yarmosky.
Northam has faced his own criticism from African American and Democratic lawmakers after images from his medical school yearbook seemed to place him in a photo of two men– one in blackface and the other dressed as a Klu Klux Klan member.
“It’s ironic the president would attend, given his recent attacks on immigrants,” Yarmosky added, explaining that the narrative of the Jamestown settlement is about immigrants building the nation.
Not all Virginia Democrats are planning to boycott the event. At least two members of Congress, Reps. Jennifer Wexton and Elaine Luria, said they will attend.
“It’s not about the president,” a spokesperson for Wexton wrote to the Washington Post.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is the only African American statewide officeholder in the state, said he will also attend the event. He explained in a long post on Medium that historic commemoration trumps the “frenzied and fickle politics of the moment.”
Virginia Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment Jr., one of the Republicans who invited Trump, said the response from Democrats was “disappointing and embarrassing.”