Members of the Haitian community in South Florida gathered Monday to protest President Donald Trump’s comments about immigrants from “shithole” countries.
Trump opted to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day at his golf resort in West Palm Beach. Hundreds of protesters responded to news he’d be in town with a march across a bridge connecting Palm Beach to West Palm Beach. The group carried signs demanding an apology from the president for his disparaging remarks last week.
“If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today, he’d be here marching with us,” James Leger, a radio show host and one of the protest organizers, told the Sun Sentinel. “We’re going to pray for America and pray for President Trump. People make mistakes. We’re not asking for impeachment. We just want an apology.”
Across the street from the protesters, a group of Trump supporters also gathered to cheer the president’s passing motorcade.
In an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers Thursday, Trump reportedly described Haiti and African nations as “shithole” countries and slammed the idea of restoring protections for immigrants from those places.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” the president said, according to The Washington Post. Trump reportedly then suggested the U.S. should welcome more immigrants from countries like Norway.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was at the White House meeting, later confirmed Trump made the comments. Trump has denied he “said anything derogatory about Haitians.”
In November, the Trump administration announced a July 2019 date to end a special status given to about 59,000 Haitian immigrants who were affected by a devastating 2010 earthquake. The decision gives the impacted Haitians 18 months to return to their home country or legalize their status in the U.S., likely putting tens of thousands at risk of deportation.
“The president does not understand us,” Jean Bruny, a Haitian pastor in West Palm Beach, told Palm Beach Post on Monday. “We are not coming here to do any bad thing, we are coming here for a better life and to help our family in Haiti. We pay taxes, we buy houses, we contribute to the United States.”