As racial tension continues to build across the country, Donald Trump has declined to speak at the NAACP’s annual convention in Cincinnati this weekend, the civil rights organization’s leader announced Tuesday.
Cornell William Brooks, the president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said during an interview on CNN that the presumptive Republican nominee “declined our invitation” and that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton plans to speak at the conference. Nominees from both parties usually address the conference and the GOP’s last nominee, Mitt Romney, did so in 2012.
“The explanation given was that they’re holding their convention at the same time,” Brooks said. “We, of course, are in Cincinnati. They are in Cleveland. We were hoping he would make the short trip from Cleveland to Cincinnati.”
Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
News of Trump skipping the civil rights organization’s event comes at the end of a violent, bloody week that sparked a heated discussed about race relations. Last week, two black men were killed during encounters with police in Minnesota and Louisiana, which were captured on video. On Thursday night, five officers were killed in retaliatory killings in Dallas. Since then, protests have sprung up across the country, often led by Black Lives Matter activists.
Trump said in an interviews with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday night that the term “Black Lives Matter” is “a very divisive term.” Trump continued to accuse President Obama, the nation’s first black president, of stoking racial tension and not being a “cheerleader” for the nation. But on Tuesday he acknowledged that questions were also raised by the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Brooks said that Trump is missing an opportunity.
“The NAACP, representing millions of Americans, we represent an occasion for those running for president to speak to the nation’s most critical issues at a critical hour in this country,” Brooks said. “You can’t run for president and not talk about police misconduct and police brutality. You can’t run for president and not talk about this country’s civil rights agenda, so this is an important moment and our convention really will be an opportunity for anyone running for president to provide a window into not only their policies but into their heart and character as a candidate. So it’s going to be an important moment.”