Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed onto a letter of invitation last year along with Republican leaders of the House of Delegates and state Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was also invited, but had already declined.
The state has been planning the Jamestown events for several years to mark the first time 20 burgesses chosen by colonists gathered on July 30, 1619. That General Assembly met for six days and suggested a raft of laws that were sent back to England and approved by the Virginia Company, the investors who were bankrolling the colony. It was the beginning of democracy in the New World.
Next month, the state also will mark the 400th anniversary of the 1619 arrival of the first Africans in the colonies, who were brought in chains and enslaved.
Virginia has traditionally hosted presidents when it marks big anniversaries at Jamestown — Theodore Roosevelt attended the 300th anniversary of the colony’s founding in 1907, and George W. Bush participated in the 400th in 2007.
But Democrats said Trump’s divisive policies on immigration, inflammatory statements about race and recent proclamation that four congresswomen of color should “go back” to “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” made him unwelcome.
Virginia House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) and Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) joined other top Democrats last week in pledging to boycott the part of the ceremonies that will feature Trump.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, a Democrat who is often touted as a future candidate for governor, resigned this week from committees overseeing the 400th anniversary events because of the Trump invitation.
“A president who labels those who disagree with him as un-American and ignorantly advocates for duly elected congresswomen, all United States citizens of color, to be sent back to their countries of origin has no place at this commemorative gathering in our commonwealth this weekend,” Stoney wrote in his resignation letter.
The president is set to address a special commemorative session of the General Assembly in a tent at the Jamestown Settlement park near Jamestown Island.
Northam will speak earlier Tuesday morning at an event on Jamestown Island itself and was not slated to attend the legislative session.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), only the second African American elected statewide in Virginia, said he would attend the session because of Jamestown’s historical significance. Fairfax presides over the state Senate in his role as lieutenant governor.
Several other Democrats, including most members of the congressional delegation, also said they would attend.