(CNN) — NAACP President Derrick Johnson will not attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights museum Saturday, citing President Donald Trump’s presence at the event as the reason for his absence.
Johnson, who heads the group which seeks to eliminate race-based discrimination, insisted that his choice not to attend was not a boycott because he and other black leaders still plan to “celebrate the veterans of the civil rights movement” and honor the museum’s purpose.
Still, Johnson told CNN’s Kate Bolduan, “I will not be there tomorrow,” calling Trump’s planned appearance at the museum opening a photo opportunity.
“His attendance is a distraction from us having the opportunity to honor true Americans who sacrificed so much to ensure that democracy works,” Johnson said. “It is unfortunate, in fact it is an affront, to those individuals who fought for voting rights to ensure that people had quality education and access to health care will be celebrated. Those are principles this President does not support.”
Two black congressmen announced Thursday they would not attend because of Trump’s planned presence.
In a joint statement released Thursday, Democratic Reps. John Lewis and Bennie G. Thompson said that after “conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil right activists and many citizens of our congressional districts,” they have decided not to attend the opening.
The White House responded to their decision saying it was “unfortunate” the congressmen were skipping the event.
“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday. “The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”