- President Donald Trump accepted an award presented at the historically black Benedict College in South Carolina.
- The appearance attracted protesters and criticism from the likes of Democratic presidential primary candidate Sen. Kamala Harris.
- Students at the college told multiple outlets that they were told to stay in their dorms during the event and Trump’s speech.
- Only a handful of students were allowed in, and most of the 200 attendees appeared to be unaffiliated with the college.
- During the event, Trump compared unfair treatment in the justice system to the impeachment inquiry against him, which he called a “witch hunt.”
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The 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at the historically black Benedict College in South Carolina has become embroiled in controversy after President Donald Trump appeared Friday to accept an award for his involvement in the passage of the prison reform package called The First Step Act, which expands opportunities for release of elderly inmates, increases opportunities for inmates to earn good-time credit, and includes resources for inmates transitioning back into society.
On Friday, Democratic presidential primary candidate Sen. Kamala Harris announced that she would not be attending a portion of the event Saturday because of the decision to include Trump, saying, “There is nothing in his career that is about justice, for justice, or in celebration of justice.”
On top of the mounting impeachment inquiry and accusations of obstruction of justice against Trump, the president notably settled a housing discrimination case brought against his family’s company surrounding allegations that they discriminated against prospective black tenants.
As Trump spoke and accepted his award at the college Friday, several hundred protesters and supporters clashed outside, drowning each other out with competing chants, according to USA Today.
Exacerbating the befuddling optics of the event was the fact that students, outside a select handfull, were asked to stay in their dorms during Trump’s appearance.
Classes were reportedly canceled, and students were given lunch in their housing units.
School spokesperson Kymm Hunter told multiple outlets that the decision was made for security reasons.
Instead of students, of which there are over 2,100, the speech was seemingly populated with around 200 supporters from outside of the college.
Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Stephen Benjamin told CNN that he though they may have been “brought in” from somewhere else.
In his speech, Trump talked about prison reform and went on to compare what he characterized as unfair treatment against some by the Justice Department to the impeachment inquiry against him, which he called, “a witch hunt” and “an investigation in search of a crime.”
Earlier in the week, Trump faced bipartisan backlash when he likened the impeachment probe to “lynching.”