Update (October 28, 2019): Benedict College, an HBCU, invited President Trump to give an hour-long speech on Friday where he continued to paint his impeachment inquiry to the plight of Black Americans.

HAPPENING NOW: Pres. Trump delivers remarks at HBCU Benedict College in Columbia, SC. https://t.co/61VpilIcep

— ABC News (@ABC) October 25, 2019

On Thursday, Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin admitted to the Post and Courier that he tried to move Trump's speech to another venue when he realized the president wasn't taking questions and only allowing 10 of the HBCU's students to attend. 

Benedict College hosted the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum, a three-day event focused on criminal justice that featured some of the Democratic candidates.

Benjamin said they expected Trump to attend the event and participate similarly to the Democratic candidates. After he was told by The White House that Trump would not take questions, he tried to move the event to the South Carolina State Museum.

Despite the venue being larger, he said relocating the event would have separated Trump from the tough questioning of Democratic presidential candidates.

“I received word from a number of folks who also wanted to attend. I knew that this space is restricted to 275 people ... and I also know pretty strongly that this was a departure from the original plans for the 2020 forum, that this was a White House event and that this should probably be a different venue,” Benjamin said in an interview with McClatchy D.C.

“I sought to have it moved to the State Museum, but my understanding after discussion with the White House is that the advance work necessary was not enough time to change the location,” Benjamin added. 

Instead of a larger venue allowing more of the school's students and others who wanted to attend, 200 of the barely 300 seats were given to Republican officials and White House staff members.

A year ago, we passed criminal justice reform and the impact on the community has been extraordinary. Joined @POTUS and colleagues at Benedict College for #2019PJF to discuss the importance of CJR for families across the country. pic.twitter.com/KHFaXNs6nz

— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) October 25, 2019

There were massive protests in the city before, during and after Trump's arrival.

Protesters march through the streets of Columbia, SC ahead of the president’s criminal justice speech here at Benedict College. pic.twitter.com/NpiouNNljS

— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) October 25, 2019

“As an African American, I feel very unsafe.” She is a freshman at Benedict College and said students were asked not to leave their dorm rooms between 1pm-4pm. @wachfox pic.twitter.com/1ogtxIFAsG

— Sooji Nam (@sooji_namtv) October 25, 2019

Protesters gather outside Benedict College ahead of President Trump's planned speech. pic.twitter.com/BBNDwCg9W9

— The Hill (@thehill) October 25, 2019

Some Trump supporters here too, but outnumbered by protesters at Benedict College, a historically black college in SC. https://t.co/FyUoTARRQZ pic.twitter.com/n0YWaqlEK9

— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) October 25, 2019

Originally, nine students were slated to go but two could not attend because of ROTC practice. 

Was able to get an updated # from Benedict College: 

Am told by college spokeswoman that 9 students had been confirmed to hear Trump's remarks, but 2 students had ROTC training. 

So 7 Benedict students were attending the event. https://t.co/3mGRF7V3zk

— Maayan Schechter (@MaayanSchechter) October 25, 2019

Things are getting pretty testy outside of Benedict College. Trump is set to speak at the college on criminal reform at 2:30p pic.twitter.com/RU0khS0ps4

— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) October 25, 2019
One protester spoke to The New York Times and said it was an embarrassment that Trump would come to an HBCU the same week he compared his impeachment to a "lynching."

“The fact that he compares the inquiry to a lynching and then has the audacity to come to a black college? Insane. He doesn’t even apologize. He just doubles down,” said 62-year-old pastor Tim Bupp.

Original (October 22, 2019): As the 2020 presidential election inches closer and talks of a possible impeachment continue to circulate, one historically Black college is taking an audacious step by inviting Donald Trump to its campus.

Benedict College recently announced Trump as its guest speaker for their event titled, “The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform,” set to take place on Friday. As one of eight historically Black colleges and universities in the 2020 battleground state of South Carolina, Benedict is hosting a three-day forum centered on the upcoming presidential election. 

“We are excited for our students who will witness, first-hand, this historical bipartisan engagement,” Benedict College President Roslyn Artis wrote in a statement.

She said the event will show students “how the diversity of thought and positive social action work together in the democracy of our country.” 

According to The State, the college held off on announcing Trump’s tie-in with the three-day forum in fear of pullout from event stakeholders and attendees. 

“Soon after learning the news that Trump planned to participate in the event as well, candidates were making it clear that they would also be using the venue to draw contrast between, and directly attack, Trump,” The State reported. 


Following Trump's outburst on Twitter juxtaposing his impeachment inquiry to "a lynching," White House deputy spokesman Hogan Gidley attempted to backpedal Trump’s statement. Gidley argued that the commander-in-chief didn't mean to compare his impeachment inquiry to one of America’s “darkest moments.” Instead, he decided to pivot the focus on Trump’s contributions to the Black community. 

“HBCU funding is at historic levels,” he explained on Fox News. “This president has also set up opportunity zones in inner cities that have gone to lift all boats, especially those of African Americans whose wages have now increased.” 

In spite of Gidley’s argument, national polls still show Trump carrying the support of only 4% of African Americans. 

The State reported that Trump’s appearance will not fall in conjunction with his 2020 campaign, but instead as his role as the current occupant of the White House. 

On Saturday and Sunday of Benedict College’s event, several 2020 Democratic candidates will arrive on campus for events.

The expected presidential hopefuls include Joe Biden, John Delaney, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sander, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.