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Truthdigger of the Week: Rep. John Lewis, Hero of the Capitol Sit-In for Gun Control
Posted on Jun 25, 2016
“Where is the heart of this body? … Where is our moral leadership? Where is our courage?”
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House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose Republican party largely blocks legislation aimed at preventing people who are likely to use guns to commit murder and other crimes to gain access to them, attempted to silence Lewis and his colleagues by ordering the chamber’s official broadcasting cameras shut off. But lawmakers circumvented the blackout by live-streaming the sit-in with their smartphones.
Here’s what Lewis said at the start of the protest, which earned our admiration and made him our Truthdigger of the Week.
John Lewis was the youngest of the “Big Six” leaders of prominent civil rights organizations that orchestrated the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and other major actions during the civil rights movement. He was also chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during some of the movement’s most volatile years, organizing sit-ins, boycotts and nonviolent protests in the fight for equality and black suffrage, and was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders—activists who rode buses into the segregated South in the early 1960s to uphold Supreme Court decisions ruling segregated public buses unconstitutional.
At age 21, Lewis was the first of the Freedom Riders to be assaulted when he tried to enter a whites-only waiting room. “We were determined not to let any act of violence keep us from our goal. We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back,” he said decades after the attack.
Lewis spent 2½ years in Jimmy Carter’s presidential administration as associate director of ACTION, a federal agency that sponsored and organized domestic and international volunteers, including the Peace Corps, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and Volunteers in Service to America, which later became AmeriCorps. In 1986, he began his tenure in the House of Representatives and has won re-election 14 times. He opposed the Bill Clinton-supported NAFTA, the 1991 Gulf War and later George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and warrantless wiretapping.
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