Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Despite protests from black leaders, President Donald Trump spoke during a private ceremony Saturday marking the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
"We pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past, and dedicate ourselves to build a future of freedom, equality, justice and peace," Trump said at a private event.
He toured the dual opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Mississippi History but did not attend the main outdoors ceremony and the ribbon-cutting.
Two black Democrats in Congress -- Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi -- decided not to attend because "President Trump's attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum," according to a joint statement.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson did not attend the ceremonies and instead held a different event with local leaders at the Smith Robertson Museum elsewhere in the state capital of Jackson to "pay homage to those who have dedicated their lives to the civil rights of Mississippians, without the presence of President Donald Trump," according to a news release.
No protests were visible inside or outside the museum, according to the White House pool report. A few blocks from the museum complex, about 100 demonstrators protested the president's trip to Mississippi in light snow.
During prepared remarks lasting nine minutes, Trump highlighted civil rights leaders who sacrificed for equal rights. He spoke to several hundred invited guests in an auditorium, among them the widow and brother of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
"I do love Mississippi. Its a great place," Trump said.
The president spoke of black Americans' push for equal rights and treatment in the United States.
"These buildings embody the hope that has lived in the hearts of every American for generations," Trump said. "The hope for a future that is more just and is more free."
Trump spent about 50 minutes at the museum complex and he was introduced by Gov. Phil Bryant at the ceremony.
Reuben Anderson, the state's first African-American Supreme Court justice, led Trump and Housing Secretary Ben Carson on a private tour.
Anderson, during the ceremony, said the museum is "kind of a thank you to those who made the sacrifices to secure equality."
Trump later flew back to his private resort at Mar-a-Lago in southern Florida, where he spent Friday night. His wife Melania and his son Baron did not make the trip from Washington.
On Friday, Trump appeared at a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Fla., where he urged voters who had crossed the state line from Alabama to "get out and vote for Roy Moore."
"The future of this country cannot afford to lose a seat in the very, very close United States Senate," Trump said at the Pensacola Bay Center, which is less than 30 miles from the Alabama border. "We need someone in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great agenda ... so get out and vote for Roy Moore."
Moore, a twice-removed Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, is running against Democrat Doug Jones.
Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl and several other teenagers when he was in his 30s.
Trump, responding to "lock her up" chants after mentioning his presidential election rival Hillary Clinton, called the political system "rigged" and a "sick system from the inside."
It was my great honor to celebrate the opening of two extraordinary museums-the Mississippi State History Museum & the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. We pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past & dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice & peace. pic.twitter.com/5AkgVpV8aa- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017