Trump-Lewis row: Democrat inauguration boycott grows – BBC

Donald Trump was widely criticised for his attack on civil rights hero John Lewis

The number of Democratic members of Congress saying they will boycott Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday has increased to 26.

Many have cited as a reason the president-elect’s recent attack on civil rights icon and fellow congressman John Lewis.

Mr Trump lashed out at Mr Lewis on Twitter on Friday after Mr Lewis said he was not a “legitimate president”.

He said that Mr Lewis was “All talk, talk, talk – no action or results”.

Mr Lewis was a prominent member of America’s civil rights movement and is a hero to many Americans. He was among those beaten by police during the infamous Selma-Montgomery voting rights march of 1965.

He joined the House of Representatives in 1987 and has served Georgia’s fifth congressional district, which Mr Trump went on to call “crime-infested”, ever since.

The president-elect’s insults, made just days ahead of Martin Luther King Day, were the final straw for a number of Democrats who will break with tradition by missing the inauguration ceremony on Friday.

“When you insult Rep. John Lewis, you insult America,” said Yvette Clarke, one of five representatives for New York who will boycott the event. There are 535 members of Congress, across both houses.


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California representative Ted Lieu said: “For me, the personal decision not to attend Inauguration is quite simple: Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis.”

Illinois representative Luis Gutierrez was the first member of congress to say he would boycott the inauguration – announcing his decision in December.

“I could not look my wife, my daughters, or my grandson in the eye if I sat there and attended, as if everything that the candidate said about the women, the Latinos, the blacks, the Muslims, or any of those other things he said in those speeches and tweets, and that all of that is okay or erased from our collective memory,” Mr Gutierrez told the House.

He has said he will attend the alternative Women’s March on Washington the following day.

From left, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, raise fists during a photo opportunity with the Democratic women of the House, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017,Image copyrightAP
Image captionRepresentative Katherine Clark (centre) is among those who will boycott the ceremony

Mr Lewis’ announcement of his own boycott in an interview with NBC News, in which he said that Mr Trump was an illegitimate president, prompted the outburst from the president-elect.

Mr Trump’s inauguration will be the first not attended by Mr Lewis in all his 30 years in congress. The Georgia congressman cited alleged Russian interference in the election among his reasons for regarding Mr Trump as illegitimate.

“You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong,” he told NBC News.

Sales of Mr Lewis’ memoir soared to the top of Amazon’s US bestseller list following Mr Trump’s attack, eventually selling out completely.

This image courtesy of Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Sty's office shows Rep. Esty (2nd-L) with Rep. John Lewis (C) and other members of Congress staging a sit-in on the floor of the US House of Representatives on June 22, 2016 in Washington, DCImage copyrightAFP
Image captionJohn Lewis (centre) at a protest to demand a debate on gun control, blocked by Republicans

Mr Lewis led a sit-in protest at the House of Representatives in July to demand a vote on gun control legislation, in the wake of the deadly Orlando shooting.

Republicans adjourned the House early to try to quash the sit-in, switching off the TV cameras, but the C-Span network picked up live streams from some Democrats’ phones.

Media captionThe moment congressman John Lewis asked Democrats to take action

Katherine Clark, a representative for Massachusetts, was among the first to join Mr Lewis for the gun control protest. Ms Clark said last week she would skip Mr Trump’s inauguration.

“Families in my district are fearful that the anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and divisive promises that drove the Trump campaign will become the policies affecting the health and safety of every American,” she said in a statement.

“I do not feel that I can contribute to the normalisation of the president-elect’s divisive rhetoric by participating in the inauguration.”

Mr Trump has struggled to book any established musicians to perform at his ceremony, despite his team appearing to have cast a wide net.

The event will feature Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old America’s Got Talent contestant, alongside military bands and the Radio City Rockettes, although some members of the Rockettes troupe have publicly refused to take part.

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