By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– State lawmakers weighed in Pres. Donald Trump’s remarks disparaging Haitians and African countries as part of the legislature’s Martin Luther King, Jr. remembrance ceremony.

In a meeting with a group of senators, Pres. Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “s—hole countries” in Africa as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, according to one participant and people briefed on the Oval Office conversation.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 09: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks before signing an executive order supporting veterans as they transition from military to civilian life in the Oval Office at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin emphasized that the executive order will work to help further prevent veterans suicide. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“I think it’s vitally important that we Coloradans make it clear that we don’t believe there are people or nations that come from shithole locations,” said Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Democrat representing Colorado Springs on the floor of the Senate.

Civil rights demonstrators, led by Dr Martin Luther King (credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Jovan Melton, a Democrat representing Arapahoe County, also condemned the president’s remarks from the House floor, “We’ve seen him say that people from Africa or from Haiti they live in s—holes. It’s those words that make me wonder, did Dr. King’s message die?”

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A resolution honoring Dr. King became a call to action at the state Capitol and maybe no one made the case for action better than Rep. Janet Buckner, a Democrat representing Aurorea. She brought the House to its feet and many to tears as she told of the history we are in danger of repeating.

Rep. Janet Buckner (credit: CBS)

The 70-year-old fought back tears as she described an incident at a pool decades ago, “Two caucasian guys, young guys, called me the n word and it distracted me, it confused me, and it hurt and I sunk to the bottom of the pool. I took in so much water the lifeguards had to come to rescue me and actually do CPR to get the water out of my lungs. To this day, I still can’t swim because this is etched in my brain.”

The racism she endured as a child she says still exists today, “My granddaughter had an experience last week that just cut me to the core.”

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But, Buckner says she was moved by the reaction of her colleagues to her story, “Republicans and Democrats came up and said, ‘Janet, we love you and we’re going to teach you how to swim.'”

Remembering Dr. King’s words, she says, isn’t enough.

Rep. Janet Buckner (credit: CBS)

“One of Martin Luther King’s quotes to me that I’ll never forget is he talked about how silence can be betrayal and so if see something, we have to call it what it is. I would tell Donald Trump I’m going to call it what it is – it’s racism and it needs to stop.”

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.


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