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Confusion in the Criminal Justice Forum over Trump, Harris



A planned series of events that took place at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, this weekend led to political failures as the school hosted the Second Step Justice Forum and also welcomed the Justice Center on 20/20. as the mayor of the city, Stephen Benjamin.

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The dispute initially arose when President Donald Trump came to speak during a visit to the historically black college on Friday, where he delivered a keynote address before accepting a bilateral justice award for his work at the Criminal Justice Forum.

The campus of the school was concluded because of its appearance; a protocol led by the Secret Service and the White House, according to Benedict's administration officials. The students had to stay where the president once arrived on campus, and only a small select handful of honor students were allowed into the forum. Everyone else had to stay in the sleeping quarters or watch the forum from a distance.

"I'm not upset that [Trump] is coming to campus, I'm upset that I can't come and attend the event," Luis de La Mora, a 1

9-year-old sophomore at Benedict, told ABC News. adding that he was disappointed that no more student housing had been made.

"Only the most extraordinary people can enter," said de la Mora. "It is a little exploitative for me to say that this is such a progressive move, as this is the first time Trump will attend HBCU, at least our little HBCU. This must be a brilliant moment when the world is paying attention to our small institution, but our students can't really do anything about it. "

During a news conference Friday, Benjamin told reporters that he was concerned about the low number of students who were able to attend the forum.

"I think every time you have the opportunity to expose more young people to public service, politics, new ideas, I think we should take advantage of them," Benjamin said. "I wish I had more opportunity to participate today."

  PHOTOS: Prophet Donald Trump, right, faces a protest against Trump, left, outside of the presidents, appearing in a criminal justice forum on Friday, October 25 2019, in Columbia, SC Meg Kinard / AP Images
A supporter of President Donald Trump, on the right, faces a protesting anti-Trump left, outside the appearance of the president at a criminal justice forum on Friday, 25 October 2019, in Columbia, SC

On Saturday, Senator Kamala Harris, D-California, and that more will attend the forum. She stepped down at the end of Friday, citing a lack of student access, and expressed frustration that the bipartisan Justice Center would celebrate the president, who has recently redoubled his longstanding comments calling for the execution of black teens known as Central Park 5. In addition, the Trump Award was the same award presented to Harris in 2016.

As friction grew on Trump's honor as well as his presence on campus, it was announced that the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Group would withdraw from its sponsorship of the forum.

In a statement to ABC News, Benjamin said that Benedict College had assumed "full operational control" of the candidacy forum.

"We are trying to work seriously and in the long term in the interest of Benedict College," Benjamin said.

Then, against the backdrop of the ongoing forum, Harris, a graduate of HBCU, announced that she would now attend the event again due to the fact that the sponsor had been "removed".

After she agreed to join, she thanked Benjamin in his speech for his guidance and his re-branding of the forum.

"Let's just deal with the elephant in the room, which is the events of the last 24-48 hours," Harris said. "Mayor Benjamin called me and told me that he would move and change … that the only right and reflection of this most honest institution would be open to students, this event, that no event would be paid and everyone could to participate, "Harris said.

But representatives of the Bipartisan Justice group – and their presence on social media globally – still claim to sponsor the forum, which fueled the confusion and speculation that 20/20 have not completely disappeared.

According to Benjamin's associates, this was "because of contracts, [and] there had to be some infrastructure left. However … Benedict College manages the event. Part of the candidate's forum is being reissued, 20/20 They are not yet hosting this. They are still running several panels and are working to accommodate people who have purchased passes from them. "

  PHOTO: Democratic Candidate for President Kamala Harris Speaks During A Rally at Aiken High School in Aiken, SC Saturday, October 19, 2019. Michael Holahan / The Augusta Chronicle via AP
Democratic Candidate President Kamala Harris spoke during a rally at Aiken High School in Aiken, SC, Saturday, October 19, 2019.

Members of the Board of Directors of the Bipartisan Justice Center also announced this, stating that the organization is still hosting Benedict College will not take the lead in candidate forums, sources said This means that the events are open to students and members of the community and that the forums will ask questions about the campaigns.

Other candidates in the forum weighed in on Harris's moving position.

"Kamala is more than a colleague, she is my sister, and I will leave her to speak for herself about her decision," said fellow presidential candidate Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J. "[Trump’s] the remarks back then were offensive. Talking about being the best president ever for black people is just not just an insulting lie because he actually does things to hurt the African-American community. So, just I felt it was very important for me to be here to support an awesome institution. "

Armando Garcia, Zorahn Shah, Adam Kelsey, John Verhovek, Justin Gomez contributed to this report


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