President Donald Trump is expected to speak Friday about criminal justice at a historically black college in a scheduling decision that drew outrage from racial justice advocates.
"What an unexpected, unpleasant situation for students, the community, and many citizens of this state to experience after his insensitive remarks regarding being 'lynched' by the Democratic Party," said South Carolina NAACP state conference president Brenda C. Murphy. "What a hell of a statement to make."
The venue is Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, where the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center is holding its 2019 Second Step Presidential Forum Friday through Sunday.
An eventbrite description for the forum details the calendar for Saturday and Sunday, which includes remarks from 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls. The organization said that "all Democratic presidential candidates have been invited to present their criminal justice reform platforms, setting forth specific and articulable policy proposals with measurable results to be achieved by 2024. With the landmark First Step Act passing in late 2018, we are calling upon all candidates to answer: what’s the 'Second Step?'" Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders are scheduled to speak, as are Reps. Jon Delaney and Tulsi Gabbard, as well as Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, and Joe Biden.
Absent from the Eventbrite description are details about Friday's symposium, but the organization said on Twitter that Trump will take part in one-day symposium on "The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform"
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Trump is scheduled to begin his remarks at 2:15 pm.
As The State reported last week, "The lead-up to Trump's decision to join the program... was closely guarded by organizers, who feared the president would either change his mind or alienate those who had already committed to attending or participating."
Murphy, in her statement, said the president's first-ever visit to a HBUC should not overshadow his record of racist rhetoric and actions, including the outrage-inducing comment earlier this week wherein Trump equated House Democrats' impeachment inquiry with "a lynching," which Murphy said "demonstrates a lack of sensitivity regarding the history of the African Americans' journey."
"Although the president recently approved faith based HBCUs to have access to some federal support, we must continue to be skeptical of his actions that have already adversely impacted on the lives of many people of color and others financially disadvantaged," she said. "We must be unwavering in our awareness of his actions that limit our civil rights. We are experiencing the eroding away of the rights that our forefathers fought and gave their lives for us to have the opportunity to advance educationally, socially, and economically."
Trump, said Murphy, "consistently and unapologetically spews divisive rhetoric and actions."