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Warren At MLK Breakfast: Government Shutdown Is Trump's Fault

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during an organizing event at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during an organizing event at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren ramped up her criticism of President Donald Trump on Monday, faulting him for the partial federal government shutdown during remarks at the 49th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial breakfast in Boston.

"As we speak, our government is shut down for one reason: So that the president of the United States can fund a monument to hate and division along our southern border," the Massachusetts Democrat said during a 10-minute speech. "This is the old divide-and-conquer strategy. The goal is to turn hardworking people against other hardworking people. The intent is to promote fear and hatred."

During the event, Warren also responded to Trump's offer to Democrats on Saturday to open the government in exchange for temporary protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones. Warren said Trump must open the government immediately.

"If the president wants to negotiate over immigration reform, I'm all for it," Warren said after the speech. "But open the government and open it now."

Warren, who is exploring a possible run for president next year, used the speech in part to call for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote saying "people of color have been systematically denied" that right.

"It would guarantee the right to vote to every American citizen and make sure that that vote is counted. Right now there is no constitutional right," Warren said after her speech. "It would help protect and give us grounds for pushing back when localities undercut the right of people to vote."

Warren also said that "the days when our criminal justice system grinds up black people and destroys communities of color must come to an end."

Warren was one of a number of public officials who spoke at the breakfast.

During his comments, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker reflected on the importance of faith in the civil rights movement. He said that faith played a particularly important role for King, calling King's entire life "a leap of faith."

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase," Baker said, adding that King wanted to use faith to help individuals "see ourselves in each other."

Also speaking at the breakfast was newly elected Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress.

Pressley, who has harshly criticized Trump, suggested she didn't want to focus on his administration during the event.

"I came here today to not lift up and to talk anymore about the oppressor and their oppressive structures because they get enough oxygen every day," she said. "Instead I came here to salute, to celebrate, to lift up, to recognize and to affirm the resilience, the intellect, the courage, the beauty, the tolerance of the oppressed."

Pressley said she wanted in particular to celebrate black women like Coretta Scott King and her mother. She described them and other black women as the preservers of democracy and the "truth tellers and the justice seekers."

"Black women, we are claiming our time, we are shaking the table in the corridors of power," she said.

Mayor Marty Walsh talked in part about the role Boston played in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. — who received his doctorate from Boston University, and met his future wife, Coretta Scott King, a graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music, during his time in Boston.

The city is planning a memorial to honor the civil rights icons on the historic Boston Common.

"Boston plays an important role in Dr. King's history," Walsh said.

After the breakfast, Warren was scheduled to rally with workers at Logan International Airport in Boston to highlight the federal government shutdown and other concerns.

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