On MLK Day locals talk racial divide, expectations of incoming president

On MLK Day locals talk racial divide, expectations of incoming president

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As thousands took part in local activities to remember the legacy of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, some in attendance did not ignore a glaring challenge.

"We find ourselves tearing each other a part and so how do we turn the tide from chaos to community," said Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough, Ph.D., as he delivered a speech outside New Orleans City Hall.

Along the parade, route some welcomed the chance to reflect on Dr. King's message of racial equality and non-violence.

"Because he's so different than some of the leaders that we have now. He preached everybody working together and non-violence instead of the divisions, the hurtfulness and the nasty words that are coming out now," said parade watcher Diane Cook.

The past few days have not helped to lower the temperature of rhetoric given the public discord between President-Elect Donald Trump and civil rights icon and longtime Congressman John Lewis.

"I think that the country is in a very fragile state right now and I think that there's a lot of healing that has to go on and I think that it has to start at the top," said Congressman Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, and the new Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

He and others talked of a deepening racial divide in the country.

"The first thing that I would hope the president does is reach out and actually look and listen to people who have been fighting for equality and justice, and economic opportunity and healing the racial divide," said Richmond.

Louisiana Public Service Commission Member Eric Skrmetta served as co-chairman of Trump's Louisiana campaign. He disagrees that America is divided.

"It's important to remember the tenets of Dr. King's speeches to recognize that we are all Americans and we must move forward together," said Skrmetta.

Still he and some other local republicans are disappointed that some African-American members of Congress are boycotting Trump's inaugural.

"How do you reach out and build bridges when you don't even make an attempt, I think that's a slap in the face to the new president," said La. GOP Chairman Roger Villere.

"I understand that some people have viewpoints but ultimately we have to look at the country first and politics second, and hopefully they will reassess their position on that," Skrmetta said.

And they frown on Lewis saying will not consider Trump to be a legitimate president because of the Russian hacking.

"I'm very disappointed in them, I think that people did not do that to Barack Obama, they tried to work with him. It's a mistake to look at him, the president-elect, as not legitimate," said Skrmetta.

Richmond criticizes Trump for taking to Twitter to attack Lewis and calls his unrestrained tweeting dangerous.

And about whether he will attend the inauguration, Richmond said, "To the extent that my presence at inauguration would be an olive branch as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus I'm willing to do that."

"That's the right thing to do, is to reach out, work with the new president," said Villere.

But Richmond said reaching common ground may not be as easy as that.

"If he's willing to engage, I'm willing to engage in the respect that we have to make communities better, but I don't see a real effort there," said Richmond.

Still many hope Trump's inaugural address will begin the healing.

Villere flew out of town today for Washington in preparation for attending the inaugural.

Skrmetta will also attend.

Both Villere and Skrmetta believe Trump will be a great president and that his focus on jobs and the economy will benefit Americans of all races.

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