Mayor Flaggs supports Trump’s visit to civil rights museum

Published 7:06 pm Thursday, December 7, 2017

Local officials and residents have mixed opinions about President Donald Trump’s visit to Jackson Saturday for the dedication of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Mississippi History.

Trump, who was invited to attend the ceremonies by Gov. Phil Bryant, is scheduled to speak during the ceremonies along with former governors Haley Barbour and William Winter, former NAACP chairman Myrlie Evers and other state and national civil rights leaders.

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour will represent the city at the ceremonies.

“I don’t think he’s worthy for his presence,” said John Shorter, president of the Vicksburg Chapter NAACP. “Not that the museum is not important; the museum is important, but the president — his views and the current actions that he’s taken on behalf of the country, do not make him worthy of such a ceremony or process.”

Shorter said the local NAACP chapters across the state agreed with state NAACP officials, who wrote a letter to Bryant asking him to rescind the invitation to the president. Bryant did not rescind the invitation.

Shorter is not attending the ceremonies.

He said Trump’s past actions do not match the statements he has made on civil rights.

“He’s for rights, but his actions show that he’s not for rights. One minute he says he’s for rights, but his actions continuously show he’s not for civil rights. But yet he’s going to come to a civil rights museum opening. What’s the contradiction?”

Flaggs, a Democrat, said he sees nothing wrong with the president’s visit.

“I’ve always been a person who through my entire political career, that even though I can differ with a person philosophically or politically, I still respect the office of the position,” he said. “To this day, I’m always going to respect the office of the president.”

He said he has been invited to meet with the president before the ceremonies, adding he hopes to emphasize the need for federal assistance to small towns, especially funding for infrastructure improvements.

“You have to take every opportunity for your city,” he said.

Flaggs, a former District 55 representative who supported the legislation establishing the museums during Barbour’s administration, called the dedication ceremonies “a historical day for the state of Mississippi to be able to talk about our darkness and how far we’ve come into the light as it related to race.”

“To me, this event is bigger than one person, and I hope this will be the beginning of coming together and how important race relationship is in this country.”

Monsour, a Republican and Trump supporter, called his visit “a great opportunity at this time for our president to come and show that he’s committed to working with everybody. I think it’s just time we come together. What better than to let a Republican president come in and dedicate it and move Mississippi forward and join hands.”

Monsour, the former District 54 representative, was also involved with the museums bill in the Legislature, called the visit a great opportunity for Trump.

“We all need to work together. This divisiveness should all go away,” he said.

“Anytime a president comes to participate in a ribbon cutting, I can only see good coming out of that,” said North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, a Democrat. “Federal money, so often along with state and local money, is used for these museums, and especially a museum that’s dealing with African American heritage.

“I’m hoping he can come over here and give them a plug and be able to help them with what they’re trying to put together, and I think if the leadership there will be able to sit down and talk with him, he may be able to throw them a lifeline to help foster what they’re trying to do.”

Mayfield said he will be unable to attend the ceremony.

“It’s always great when the president of the United States comes to a Mississippi event. We don’t get that very often,” Warren County Republican Committee chairman Eric Biedenharn said. He added he will not be able to attend the ceremonies because of work.

Warren County Democratic Committee Chairman Chris Merrill had a different opinion on Trump’s visit.

“I’m kind of disappointed that he would be coming for this event. I don’t think his past record is anything that the museum would honor,” he said. He said he is not attending the dedication ceremonies.

“Matter of fact, I plan on avoiding Jackson all together.”

“I understand what he’s doing, he’s trying to recognize the museums, (but) I do feel it’s a political ploy,” said Gertrude Young, vice chairman of the county Democratic Committee. “He only goes to cities and states that supported him, and so it’s evident.

“The museums are history and something to be proud of, and we can’t be selective of who should be there and who should not be. It’s a matter of somebody recognizing it for what it is, the history is good enough for me.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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