The first woman freed as the result of Donald Trump’s criminal reform bill joined him at the White House on Thursday during a reception for Black History Month.
Catherine Toney, joined by her daughter and granddaughter, spoke to the group, thanking the president for signing the criminal justice reform bill that helped her win her freedom.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be standing up here today,” she said, noting that she was incarcerated for sixteen years before she was freed.
Trump was greeted with cheers as he took the podium at the reception as several attendees wearing Make America Great Again campaign hats chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
The president praised African-Americans who championed civil rights and freedom in the United States.
“Today we thank God for all the blessings that the African-American community continues to give our nation and we pledge our resolve to expand opportunity for Americans of every race, color, and creed,” he said.
Trump noted that heightened sentencing rules disproportionally affected the African-American community, which was why he signed the First STEP Act.
“Nobody thought we could get this done, we worked with conservatives and liberals, and those in the middle, we worked with a lot of people and we got this done,” Trump said.
He credited his son-in-law Jared Kushner for working to get the bill passed.
During the reception, one civil rights activist took the podium to thank Trump for building a wall.
“You know Nehemiah was told by God to build a wall and that’s what you’re doing. Amen,” Civil rights activist Clarence Henderson of the Fredrick Douglass Foundation said during the president’s remarks at the reception.
Civil rights leader Bob Woodson also thanked the president for shaking up the establishment.
“I just want to thank God and President Trump for turning over the tables in the temples and attacking the status quo that is hostile to the interests of poor people,” Woodson said, noting that all the poor needed was the opportunity to achieve greatness.