By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Some of the nation’s most prominent Black lawmakers in Washington are gearing up to boycott the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, ushering in a new, aggressive era of Black activism in what many fear will be a tumultuous period for civil rights leaders.
The Black political boycott joins a roster of entertainers and celebrities who are not performing or attending Trump’s inauguration.
While members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) aim to make a statement to nation’s Republican leadership, Black congressmen from Chicago remain undecided or mum on whether to join the boycott.
It’s a tough decision for lawmakers who could later face reprisals from the Trump administration over the next four years. It could mean lack political and financial support for lawmakers seeking federal dollars for important projects.
Many Black lawmakers aren’t backing down. As the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wrap up their historic term in the White House, race relations continue to intensify around the country and in the nation’s capital while Trump begins his populist agenda that many fear will be a major setback in gaining civil rights for minorities.
With nearly a million spectators expected to watch Trump sworn in as America’s 45th president, a growing number of angry Black lawmakers are staying away to protest while Congress continues to move to appeal Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare and conservative Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions gains momentum in being confirmed as the next U.S. Attorney General.
Two days before the Trump parades down Pennsylvania Avenue, some 58 Democrats had vowed not to attend his inauguration at the Capitol building. While some are minority and Hispanic lawmakers, most of them are part of the 49-member Congressional Black Caucus—the largest size in the organization’s storied history.
The boycott effort intensified after Trump attacked prominent Civil Rights champion and Georgia Cong. John Lewis, who said the new president will be an “illegitimate” one because of alleged Russian interference in the November elections. In response, Trump said Lewis “is all talk, no action.”
The war of words sent Black lawmakers to Lewis’ defense and added more to the list of inauguration boycotters, kicking off a new era of angry, intense politics under Trump’s leadership. Black lawmakers boycotting the ceremony come from Arizona to Illinois to Oregon.
While Louisiana Cong. Cedric Richmond, current chairman of the CBC, considers skipping the ceremony, his predecessor, North Carolina Cong. G.K. Butterfield decided to boycott after engaging in “deep thought.”
“I believe it would be hurtful to my constituents for me to attend the inauguration,” Butterfield tweeted.
He joins California Cong. Maxine Waters, who has been perhaps the most vocal opponent and politician to skip Trump’s inauguration. On Jan. 15, Waters tweeted, “I never ever contemplated attending the inauguration or any activities associated w/@realDonaldTrump. I wouldn’t waste my time.”
In Chicago, a spokesman for Cong. Danny K. Davis said as of Wednesday, the veteran politician had not decided whether to attend Trump’s inauguration. Another seasoned Black congressman in Chicago, Bobby Rush, could not be reached for this story.
In Los Angeles, Cong. Karen Bass tweeted out a poll asking constituents whether she should go to Trump’s presidential inauguration. Out of 17,118 votes on Tuesday, 83 percent who voted said “no” and 16 percent said “yes.”
Other Black lawmakers boycotting the inauguration include: California’s Cong. Barbara Lee; Florida’s Congressmen Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson; Maryland’s Anthony G. Brown; Michigan’s Cong. John Conyers; Missouri’s Cong. William Clay Lacy; New Jersey’s Cong. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Donald M. Payne Jr.; North Carolina’s Cong. Alma Adams; Ohio’s Cong. Marcia Fudge; and Pennsylvania’s Cong. Dwight Evans.
Trump responded to boycotters by saying he will give away their tickets.
In a conference call with reporters on Jan. 16, a spokesman for Trump’s transition team, Sean Spicer, said, “We’d love for every member of Congress to attend, but if they don’t, we’ve got some great seats for others to partake. It’s a shame that these folks don’t want to be part of the peaceful transfer of power.”
One Black lawmaker who will attend the festivities is Missouri’s Cong. Emanuel Cleaver, who said he will go “out of respect for the peaceful transfer of power.”