President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives on Air Force One Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

JAMESTOWN, Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that black legislators planning to boycott his appearance at a Virginia event commemorating the 400th anniversary of the rise of American democracy are going "against their own people."

Trump said African Americans "love the job" he's doing and are "happy as hell" with his recent comments criticizing a majority black district in the Baltimore area and its congressman.

Trump spoke at the White House before heading to historic Jamestown in Virginia.

Black state lawmakers planned to stay away from Trump's speech, in part over what they call Trump's disparaging comments about minority leaders.

A last-minute announcement that the president would participate in the Jamestown commemoration Tuesday marking the first representative assembly in the Western Hemisphere injected tension into an event years in the making. Some other top Democrats have also pledged a boycott in protest.

Demonstrators gathered Tuesday morning near the site where Trump is to speak.

"The commemoration of the birth of this nation and its democracy will be tarnished unduly with the participation of the President, who continues to make degrading comments toward minority leaders, promulgate policies that harm marginalized communities, and use racist and xenophobic rhetoric," the caucus said in a statement Monday.

The boycott comes after Trump's weekend comments referring to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings' majority-black Baltimore-area district as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess." A caucus statement didn't specifically mention Cummings but said Trump's "repeated attacks on Black legislators and comments about Black communities makes him ill-suited to honor and commemorate such a monumental period in history."

Black Caucus chairman Del. Lamont Bagby told The Associated Press in an interview that the group reached a unanimous decision to boycott the event more than a week ago but that the president has "continued his attacks" since then, including with his remarks about Cummings' district.

The anniversary comes at a time of heightened election-year partisanship in the aftermath of political scandals that rocked Virginia's top state elected leadership.

In Washington, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the caucus was pushing "a political agenda."

On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted: "Heading to Jamestown, Virginia. Word is the Democrats will make it as uncomfortable as possible, but that's ok because today is not about them!"

Caucus members also pledged to boycott the rest of a weeklong series of events marking the anniversary and have instead planned alternative commemorations Tuesday in Richmond, Virginia's capital.

At an early-morning ceremony, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam noted that while the ideals of freedom and representative government flourished in Jamestown four centuries ago, a ship carrying stolen African people who would be sold into slavery arrived in Virginia just weeks after that first assembly.

"So today, as we hold these commemorations of the first representative assembly in the free world, we have to remember who it included, and who it did not," Northam said. "That's the paradox of Virginia, of America, and of our representative democracy."

Trump is scheduled to give remarks later Tuesday morning, joining with state and national leaders and others at a commemorative session of the Virginia General Assembly.

Today's Virginia General Assembly, considered the oldest continuously operating legislative body in North America, grew out of the assembly that first gathered in 1619.

The anniversary comes as lawmakers in Virginia are grappling with the fallout from scandals that engulfed the state's top three elected officials earlier this year.

A blackface photo scandal nearly destroyed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's career. Then, as it looked like Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax might ascend to the governorship, two women accused him of sexual assault. Fairfax, who plans to attend Tuesday, has vehemently denied those allegations.

Attorney General Mark Herring, also a Democrat, has separately faced calls to resign after acknowledging he dressed in blackface decades ago.

All three men remain in office.

Virginia Del. Lamont Bagby, center, talks about the history of black members of the House of Delegates after laying a wreath under a plaque that lists African-American legislators in the Virginia State Capitol, Tuesday, July 30, 2019 in Richmond, Va. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus members are not attending a ceremony Tuesday marking the 400th anniversary of the first representative assembly in the western hemisphere. The group said in a statement that President Donald Trump's participation is
Virginia Dels. Jeffrey Bourne and Kathleen Murphy, obscured left, place a wreath under a plaque that lists African-American legislators in the Virginia State Capitol, Tuesday, July 30, 2019 in Richmond, Va. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus members are not attending a ceremony Tuesday marking the 400th anniversary of the first representative assembly in the western hemisphere. The group said in a statement that President Donald Trump's participation is
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses a commemorative meeting of the Virginia General Assembly on the 400th anniversary of the first House of Burgess meeting at a church in Historic Jamestown, Va., on the site where the meeting took place, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak later at a second ceremony to mark the historic meeting, which was the first representative assembly in the colony. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses a commemorative meeting of the Virginia General Assembly on the 400th anniversary of the first House of Burgess meeting at a church in Historic Jamestown, Va., on the site where the meeting took place, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak later at a second ceremony to mark the historic meeting, which was the first representative assembly in the colony. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump gestures as he deplanes from Air Force One at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Newport News, Va. President Trump is traveling to Jamestown for an event to celebrate the 400th anniversary celebration of the first representative assembly. (Sarah Holm/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)