Trump speech interrupted by Virginia House delegate Ibraheem Samirah
President Donald Trump stayed away from present-day politics during a speech Tuesday paying tribute to the 400th anniversary of the first democratic assembly on American soil – but at least one protester objected to his presence.
“You can’t send us back! Virginia is our home!” a demonstrator shouted before being escorted out of the event marking the establishment of the Virginia House of Burgesses in Jamestown in July 1619.
The president – who has been assailed by Democrats in recent weeks for racist tweets – did not react to the demonstration, while members of the crowd chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
A Virginia state House delegate, Ibraheem Samirah, later said he disrupted Trump’s 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.”
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Samirah’s “send us back” statement references a Trump tweet attacking four minority members of Congress as well as an incident at a recent Trump political rally.
Trump tweeted on July 14 that a group of Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix” the countries where they “originally came” from before criticizing the United States. Three days later, supporters chanted “send her back” at one of Trump’s targets, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who came to the United States as a child refugee from Somalia.
Samirah, a Palestinian American dentist from Herndon, Va., won a special election to the Virginia assembly in February after a campaign in which he faced accusations of anti-Semitism for social posts attacking Israel.
The Washington Post reported that “Samirah apologized for his posts, though he characterized the attacks as ‘a smear campaign.’”
Rather than protest, members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus boycotted Trump’s appearance in Jamestown, saying the slavery anniversary made his attendance inappropriate.
“It is impossible to ignore the emblem of hate and disdain that the President represents,” the caucus said in a statement. “Furthermore, his repeated attacks on Black legislators and comments about Black communities makes him ill-suited to honor and commemorate such a monumental period in history.”
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Returning to the White House after the brief trip to Jamestown, Trump admonished reporters for focusing on the protester rather than the speech. Trump said “we had great receptivity” from the audience that included Democrats as well as Republicans.
“We had one person (protesting), but other than that it was really fantastic,” Trump said.
In his remarks, Trump praised the experiment in democracy begun four centuries ago, saying “we must be proud of our heritage, (and) united in our purpose.”
“To every Virginian and every legislator with us today,” Trump said during his speech, “congratulations on four incredible centuries of history, heritage and commitment to the righteous cause of American self-government.”
Trump also noted another 400th anniversary – the importation of slaves to American soil. He called it “the beginning of a barbaric trade in human lives” that did not end until the Civil War of the mid-19th Century.
Trump visited Jamestown after two-and-a-half weeks of racially charged tweets targeting lawmakers of color who oppose him, attacks that are likely to come up at Democratic presidential debates over the next two nights.
Presidents often mark major anniversaries in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.
Theodore Roosevelt attended the 300th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding in 1907; a century later, George W. Bush attended the 400th anniversary in 2007.
Trump did dabble in politics before his formal speech in Jamestown.
Before leaving the White House, Trump said he believes his attacks on his opponents are helping him politically, and that he was looking forward to the Democratic debates over the next two nights.
Trump braced supporters for protests before his Jamestown speech. “Word is the Democrats will make it as uncomfortable as possible, but that’s ok because today is not about them!” he said.
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