President Donald Trump paid tribute Saturday to the leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement, though protests surrounding his visit to Mississippi laid bare the stark divisions among Americans about his commitment to that legacy, the AP reports. As Trump gazed at an exhibit on Freedom Riders at the new Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, demonstrators near the site held up signs that said "Make America Civil Again" and "Lock Him Up." Trump spent about 30 minutes at the museums, gave a 10-minute speech to select guests inside, and then flew back to his Florida estate, skipping the public schedule of the dedication ceremony held outside on a chilly day. He spent more time getting to Jackson than he did on the ground.
Trump's remarks steered clear of addressing the anger that his participation had sparked leading up to the dedication. In a deliberate voice and rarely diverting from his prepared words, the president sought to honor the famous and the anonymous for their efforts on behalf of freedom for all. "The civil rights museum records the oppression, cruelty, and injustice inflicted on the African-American community, the fight to bring down Jim Crow and end segregation, to gain the right to vote, and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality. And it's big stuff. That's big stuff," he said. "Those are very big phrases, very big words." The national president of the NAACP and the mayor of Mississippi's capital city said they kept their distance from Trump and the event because of the president's "pompous disregard" for the values embodied by the civil rights movement.