Ahead of a State of the Union address billed as a bipartisan call to action, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson sat in the bowels of a historic Miami church Tuesday night and predicted a speech full of “lies and innuendo.”
“Nothing he says tonight will come true. Nothing,” she said.
Wilson, one of about a dozen Democratic members of Congress skipping President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech, gathered in the lower level of Overtown’s Greater Bethel AME Church with a small crowd of supporters and declared Miami in unity and defiance of the president.
Though the rest of Miami-Dade’s congressional delegation was in attendance Tuesday night in Washington, D.C. — some making a statement through their choice of guest — Wilson announced more than two weeks ago that she was boycotting the State of the Union address because of Trump’s “recent racist and incendiary remarks about Haiti and African nations” during a private meeting about immigration policy.
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“He decided that he would disparage my ancestral home, Africa. He called it a ‘shithole.’ And he called Haiti a ‘shithole.’ And our community is comprised of Africans and Haitians and everyone,” Wilson, who represents the heart of Miami’s black community, said during a news conference inside the church.
“I wanted to prove to the community and perhaps the whole nation, and especially to him, how we as a community can come together with Muslims, with Haitians, with Africans, with Dreamers, with Mexicans, with African Americans. All the people he disparaged, we’re bringing together as a community. Miami is an immigrant-rich community and we get along fine. That’s America.”
Excerpts released by the White House ahead of Trump’s speech showed the president intended to use his address to call for cooperation among lawmakers who spent his first year in office bickering and blocking legislation. Republicans criticized announcements of a boycott.
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said on Twitter that Wilson and others skipping the address were “failing to do their jobs and robbing their constituents of the representation they deserve.”
But those at Tuesday night’s boycott event in Miami said there’s no working with Trump. With a live stream of the speech’s run-up projected onto a large screen, pastors asked God during the “prayer vigil” to help encourage bolder Democratic turnout during the mid-term elections.
“We shall overcome. And survive the next three years if we have to,” said Jean Monestime, a Haitian-American Miami-Dade commissioner.
Still, Wilson, who wore all black and a “Time’s Up” pin on her lapel, said the point of holding the event was to present a show of unity to the rest of the country.
“My immigrant-rich community stands with me,” she said, “and we’re proving to America that this is what democracy looks like.”