Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Trump condemns slavery amid controversy over prior incendiary remarks

In the past two weeks, the US President has criticised four Democratic women of colour and an African-American politician

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the First Representative Legislative Assembly in Jamestown, Virginia on July 30, 2019. AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS
US President Donald Trump speaks during an event commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the First Representative Legislative Assembly in Jamestown, Virginia on July 30, 2019. AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

US President Donald Trump, under fire for attacks on four congresswomen of colour, condemned slavery on Tuesday at the 400th anniversary of the first legislative assembly, in Virginia.

But Mr Trump was interrupted by a protesting state legislator.

He gave a speech at the site of the first legislative assembly in Jamestown, Virginia, after touring the town's church and a mock 1619 village.

Mr Trump honoured the first people to form a government in what would become the United States, but also recognised the importation of slaves in 1619 in the region.

“It was the beginning of a barbaric trade of human lives,” he said. “Today, in honour, we remember every sacred soul who suffered the horrors of slavery and the anguish of bondage.”

Mr Trump also honoured African-Americans’ contributions to US history and quoted civil rights leader Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

The speech followed two weeks of incendiary remarks about four Democratic women of colour in the US House of Representatives and African-American politician Elijah Cummings, all of whom have been sharp critics of the president.

Mr Trump blasted Mr Cummings for not doing more to improve the plight of Baltimore, a largely black city, which he said was "rat and rodent-infested".

He has been accused of racism and bigotry for remarks about the five politicians.

Virginia’s black legislators said they would boycott Mr Trump’s appearance after his harsh comments about the minority members of Congress.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it was “impossible to ignore the emblem of hate and disdain that the president represents”, while he continues to “promulgate policies that harm marginalised communities and use racist and xenophobic rhetoric".

Mr Trump’s address in Jamestown was interrupted briefly by Democratic Virginia Delegate Ibraheem Samirah, who shouted and held up a sign that said: “Go back to your corrupted home. Deport hate. Reunite my family and all those shattered by systemic discrimination.”

Mr Samirah, a Palestinian-American dentist, later said in a Twitter post that he had disrupted the speech “because nobody’s racism and bigotry should be excused for the sake of being polite".

“The man is unfit for office and unfit to partake in a celebration of democracy, representation and our nation’s history of immigrants,” he said.

The Virginia Republican Party later released a statement accusing Mr Samirah of being anti-Semitic.

Updated: July 30, 2019 11:43 PM

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