‘Trump has made it so you can’t let these things go anymore, you have to address them because we are where we are because we’ve been willing to ignore these things…’
(Steve Roberts Jr., Daily Press – Newport News, Va.) While Democrats in Virginia may have given racist Gov. Ralph Northam a free pass following revelations of his past associations with blackface and Ku Klux Klan outfits, they seemed far less willing to forgive President Donald Trump over allegations of a racist tweet more than two weeks ago.
The result was an ironically self-unaware condemnation of precisely the sort of conduct they earlier had turned a blind eye too—despite the fact that Northam’s offensive yearbook photo far eclipsed Trump’s tweet telling anti-American congresswomen to “go back” and fix the countries they pledged their allegiance to.
As the Virginia General Assembly prepared to celebrate its 400th anniversary Tuesday, protesters and demonstrators prepared to stand in the sun hoping to see or be seen by Trump.
Hundreds of protesters lined up outside Jamestown High School to hop aboard a shuttle to Jamestown Beach to protest the president’s visit.
In total, about 350 protesters showed up, chanting phrases like “This is what democracy looks like” and “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.”
Lucy Quinn said she wanted to protest the president because he threatens democracy.
“The fact that he’s anywhere near a celebration of our democracy and our representative government, here at Jamestown, just enraged me,” she said.
Across the street, about 20 people demonstrated in support of the president. Susan Austin, a Trump supporter, said she felt the group was discouraged from coming because there wasn’t a lot of information on travel arrangements.
“I had a big group that was going to come down, but they said, ‘We can’t go, all the roads are going to be closed down,’ ” Austin said.
Albert Burckard, from Carrollton, said he came out to show support for the president.
“I think it’s important that all views are heard and people get a chance to see both sides of the coin, so to speak, and so that’s why I’m here, to present the other side of the coin,” Burckard said.
While the protests were peaceful, tempers flared as the ceremonies were near their conclusion as demonstrators and protesters hurled rhetorical insults at one another.
One anti-Trump protester asked the opposing side, “Why do you like kids in cages?” Pro-Trump supporters responded, “Why do you kill babies?”
Iyabo Osiapem, an anti-Trump protester, said the president had a knack for dividing people.
“He kind of presses the buttons that he knows are going to [set] us off, and that is his tactic, but funny enough that’s what got me out here,” Osiapem said.
“There was a point in my past where I was willing to let people say stupid stuff,” Osiapem said.
“Trump has made it so you can’t let these things go anymore, you have to address them because we are where we are because we’ve been willing to ignore these things. Trump is not the only culprit, he is just the one who has made it OK to hate.”
It was not immediately clear whether the “letting go” Osiapem mentioned was a referrnce to Northam’s racist scandal, which surfaced and quickly disappeared from headlines in February.
While many Democrats initially condemned his offensive medical school photo, concurrent scandals from Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring—the second and third in line for the governorship—threatened to cost Democrats their seat of power.
The next in line for succession would have been House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican.
None of the three top Democrats ultimately were held accountable for their shocking revelations of alleged rape and racism.
After the president arrived at the ceremony in his 65-vehicle motorcade and began his speech lauding the virtues of American democracy and the legacy of the first meeting of the General Assembly, a current member of the House of Delegates stood up and shouted him down.
Interrupting the president’s remarks, Delegate Ibraheem Samirah shouted down the president saying “Mr. President, you can’t send us back.”
“Virginia is our home,” said Samirah, a Democrat elected to represent Loudon and Fairfax counties in a February special election.
The incident was decried by Republicans, including Cox.
“I am disappointed by Delegate Ibraheem Samirah’s disrespectful outburst during the President’s remarks,” Cox wrote in a tweet. “It was not only inconsistent with common decency, it was also a violation of the rules of the House.”
Trump continued speaking to shouts of “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
When it came time to close his speech, the president said America was on the right path, the path of democracy set by that first General Assembly.
“Our future is bigger, bolder, better and brighter than ever before,” Trump said. “It’s been a great honor for me to be with you this morning, I’d like to thank you, God bless you, God bless Virginia and God bless America.”
(Daily Press reporters Amelia Heymann and Emily Holter and Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed reporting to this story.)
(c)2019 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.