JACKSON, Miss. — The president is coming to America’s poorest, blackest state to open a civil rights museum on Saturday, and people in the neighborhoods surrounding that gleaming new tribute to the past would rather have Donald Trump visit their present.

“It’s hostile now, more hostile than in a long, long time,” said Pete McElroy, who employs three men at the auto repair shop that’s been his family’s business for three generations. “People almost boast about it: ‘We got our man in the White House and this is the way the ball’s going to roll now.'”

Three miles from the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, over rutted roads, past littered lots, abandoned houses and shuttered plants and warehouses, McElroy, 69, and other black residents of this struggling capital city say that after nearly a year of the Trump presidency, they have a definitive answer to the question candidate Trump posed when he spoke at a rally in Jackson in August 2016.

“What do you have to lose?” Trump asked, making a quixotic and ultimately failed bid for black votes to a nearly all-white crowd.

“We’re losing a lot,” McElroy said here this week. “Losing Obamacare. Where are people going to go? Losing money. He’s making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Mostly, we’re losing respect. No way you can evade that. The way he speaks, the racists feel like they can say anything they want to us.”

Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant – an early and avid Trump supporter – had invited the president to attend the opening months ago, but few here thought he would come. Except for crises such as hurricanes and oil spills, no president had set foot in small, poor, reliably Republican Mississippi for decades.

Trump’s down-to-the-wire decision to attend the opening seemed to change everything. Suddenly, the focus shifted away from the elderly Mississippians who had stood up to police and merchants and employers to demand their rights half a century ago. The president with a knack for dominating conversation had succeeded again. In the local news, at beauty salons and auto repair shops, even in the halls of the new museum, the talk was now about Trump: Why was he coming? What would he say? Would celebration morph into protest and controversy?

Late Thursday, John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who is one of the last surviving leaders of the movement, canceled his commitment to give the keynote address at the opening. Lewis, who refused to attend Trump’s inauguration because he considered him an illegitimate president, joined with Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, to announce they will not attend because Trump is coming.

“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum,” they said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called their decision “unfortunate,” adding that Trump “hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”

On the cusp of the divisive Senate election in neighboring Alabama, Trump has triggered a frenzy of preparation and trepidation. On Thursday, Secret Service agents and state and local police combed every corner of the downtown site where Trump will join aging civil rights movement veterans and local politicians for the opening of two museums – one on the state’s history, the other a strikingly challenging look at the cruelties of race from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Along the streets of Jackson, even people who had no idea that a civil rights museum had just been built with $90 million in state money knew that Trump was coming.

“It’s OK he’s coming, but they should take him to the ‘hood,'” said Quinton King, a 22-year-old mechanic at a tire shop on Martin Luther King Avenue. “Let him see we living paycheck to paycheck, can’t get no credit card. It’s like they’re trying to keep everything for themselves up there, and here, we ain’t got nothing.”

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