South Carolina justice forum reconfigured after Harris withdraws over Trump award

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A criminal justice forum planned for Democratic presidential hopefuls in South Carolina has been reconfigured after Kamala Harris withdrew from the event, citing a lack of access for students at the historically black college in Columbia where it’s being held.

The city’s mayor, Steve Benjamin, tells The Associated Press he’s worked with Benedict College officials to coordinate what’s being called the Collegiate Bipartisan Presidential Forum, which he’ll host.

It’s taking the place of the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center event, though the original organizers say they still will have a role in Saturday’s activities.

The uproar began when California Sen. Harris pulled out of the forum late Friday, citing frustration over organizers’ decision to give President Donald Trump an award.

Soon after, the mayor said he would organize an alternative forum.


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris is pulling out of a South Carolina criminal justice forum over organizers’ handling of President Donald Trump’s appearance.

Soon after her announcement, the mayor of South Carolina’s capital city, Columbia, and a co-host of the event said he was organizing an alternative forum at Benedict College, a historically black college, for any candidates who wished to participate, with Harris’ campaign confirming she would be among them.

“I honestly wanted to give everyone else another option,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told The Associated Press about his event, which will be held with the theme “Students First” in a college chapel.

As of Friday night, Benjamin said Cory Booker and Joe Biden, and likely Bernie Sanders, planned to attend his event, as well as the original forum.

Earlier Friday, Harris’ campaign said she would skip the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center event Saturday in objection to the group’s decision to give Trump its Bipartisan Justice Award, which she received in 2016.

“Donald Trump is a lawless President,” the California senator said in a statement. “Not only does he circumvent the laws of our country and the principles of our Constitution, but there is nothing in his career that is about justice, for justice, or in celebration of justice.”

Trump received the award Friday for his work on criminal justice reform with the First Step Act, which has allowed thousands of nonviolent offenders to gain early release from federal prison.

Harris had been among 10 Democrats expected at the forum over the weekend.

She also complained that only a handful of Benedict students were ticketed for Trump’s appearance. Most seats were occupied by administration officials and Trump supporters.

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