A Virginia lawmaker, who is Muslim, shouted “you can’t send us back!” briefly interrupting President Donald Trump during an event Tuesday commemorating the 400th anniversary of Virginia’s first legislative assembly.
Ibraheem Samirah, a Democrat elected this year to the state House of Delegates, halted Trump’s speech with a one-man demonstration as he held a sign that read “deport hate,” “reunite my family” and “go back to your corrupted home.”
Video from the Jamestown event showed Samirah being led out as some in the audience clapped at his removal while chanting Trump’s name.
In a statement later posted to Twitter, Samirah defended his actions, writing that “nobody’s racism and bigotry should be excused for the sake of being polite.” He added that while he was born in Chicago, his family came to the United States as Palestinian refugees and that his father in 2002 was “forced to literally ‘go back'” after he was denied re-entry following a visit to Jordan.
Samirah said the protest was motivated by Trump’s message earlier this month that four progressive congresswomen should “go back” to the countries where they originally came from and fix those “crime infested places.”
While the president did not mention anyone by name in his initial tweets, he appeared to be referring to Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. All but Omar, a Somali refugee and naturalized citizen, were born in the United States.
At a campaign event this month in North Carolina, Trump’s supporters echoed the president’s words by chanting in reference to Omar, “Send her back.”
Samirah also criticized Trump for referring to communities of color as “rat infested,” alluding to a tweet the president fired off over the weekend attacking House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his district that includes Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
At Tuesday’s gathering in Virginia, Trump gave a scripted speech at the site of the first legislative assembly in Jamestown after touring the Jamestown church and a mock 1619 village.
In his remarks, he honored the first people to form a government in what would become the United States but also recognized the importation of slaves in 1619 in the same region.
“It was the beginning of a barbaric trade of human lives,” he said. “Today in honor, we remember every sacred soul who suffered the horrors of slavery and the anguish of bondage.”
Speaking to reporters later Tuesday, Trump brushed off Samirah’s protest and said it was an otherwise “fantastic” event.
Virginia’s black state legislators, however, said they would boycott Trump over his most recent incendiary remarks.
A statement from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it was “impossible to ignore the emblem of hate and disdain that the president represents” while he continues to “promulgate policies that harm marginalized communities and use racist and xenophobic rhetoric.”
Charlie Gile and Reuters contributed.