JAMESTOWN, Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday marked the 400th anniversary of American democracy and its gift “of the country we love,” but his celebration of what began as an experiment in self-government was boycotted by black Virginia lawmakers incensed by Trump’s continued disparagement of a veteran black congressman and the majority-black district he represents.
The uplifting rhetoric from President Trump markied 400 years of representative government.
President Trump said in remarks to members of Virginia’s General Assembly and other dignitaries that the United States has had many achievements in its history, but “none exceeds the triumph that we are here to celebrate today.”
“Self-government in Virginia did not just give us a state we love — in a very true sense it gave us the country we love, the United States of America,” he said.
The General Assembly, considered the oldest continuously operating legislative body in North America, grew out of a gathering that convened in July 1619.
The Republican president noted African Americans “love the job” he’s doing and are “happy as hell” with his criticisms of ultra-liberal Elijah Cummings and his majority-black Baltimore-area district.
The attacks on Congressman Cummings closely followed the President’s criticism earlier this month of four progressive democrat female members of Congress who have reveled in their expression of anti-American hatred.
In his speech, President Trump offered a nod to the beginning of slavery in the U.S. by noting the arrival of the slaves in 1619 at Point Comfort, Virginia.
“We remember every sacred soul who suffered the horrors of slavery and the anguish of bondage,” he said.
President Trump’s speech was briefly interrupted by a Muslim state lawmaker, Ibraheem Samirah, a democrat, who stood holding laminated signs that said “Deport Hate,” ”Reunite My Family” and “Go Back to Your Corrupted Home.” Samirah later told The Associated Press that he wanted to protest President Trump’s policies and rhetoric. The signs clearly indicated that Samirah sought deportation to the home from which he hearkened.
Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox, who had introduced Trump, said Samirah’s protest was “inconsistent with common decency and a violation of the rules of the House.”
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Lamont Bagby told AP that the group of about 20 lawmakers had reached a unanimous decision to boycott the event more than a week ago, before President Trump began to assail Cummings. Not every black Virginia elected official stayed away from President Trump’s appearance. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax was on hand as President Trump became the first President to address the Virginia Legislature.
President Trump used the speech to make an optimistic case for America’s future, saying, “America always gets the job done.”
“That is why after 400 years of glorious American democracy, we have returned here to this place to declare to all the world that the United States of America and the great Commonwealth of Virginia are just getting started,” he said.
At a ceremony earlier Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam — a democrat whose political career was almost destroyed this year by a blackface scandal — reflected on the complexities of the 1619 milestones. He noted that while the ideals of freedom and representative government flourished in Jamestown four centuries ago, enslaved Africans would arrive just weeks later.
“So today, as we hold these commemorations of the first representative assembly in the free world, we have to remember who it included, and who it did not,” Northam said. “That’s the paradox of Virginia, of America, and of our representative democracy.”