Civil rights icon John Lewis paid tribute to the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday, recalling the historic voting rights protests that severely injured the lawmaker several years before he was elected to Congress.
Lewis locked arms with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they marched together with other members of Congress across the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the anniversary of the significant March 7, 1965 march from Selma to Alabama’s capital, Montgomery.
It was also the day when Lewis experienced beating from white police officers and suffered a broken skull, with 17 more people who were hospitalized and dozens who were injured by police.
The 80-year-old Georgia Democratic congressman, who has been undergoing treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer, said on Sunday that those gathered were taking a little walk to reenact the historic march and everything it represents.
Lewis said in a statement:
“It is good to be in Selma, Alabama, one more time,”
“To take a little walk to try to dramatize the need for the rights of all our people to be able to participate in the democratic process.”
Led by Lewis, Pelosi, and the other lawmakers who walked, they sang the same songs that were sung by those who marched more than five decades ago, such as “We Shall Overcome,” which is considered as the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
“On this bridge, some of us gave a little blood to help redeem the soul of America. Our country is a better country. We are (a) better people, but we have still a distance to travel to go before we get there.”
“I want to thank each and every one of you for being here, for not giving up, not giving in, for keeping the faith, for keeping your eyes on the prize.”
Reports said this is the second weekend that Lewis has returned to the Edmund Pettus Bridge to pay his respect. Last week, he made a surprise visit to the commemorative march that was held there. The congressman spoke to the crowd that day but did not march through the route with attendees.
At the latest event, lawmakers present were moved seeing Lewis and to hear his remarks. And just like what he did throughout his career, Lewis urged people to speak up and push for voting rights, telling them to “keep walking.”
“Members of Congress, when we go back to Washington in the next few days, weeks, we’ve got to see that all of our people get out and vote like we’ve never voted before. We must do it, if we don’t do it, who will do it?”
Being the first elected to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in 1986, Lewis is sometimes called “the conscience of the US Congress.” He is famous for getting into good trouble, and according to him, was arrested more than 40 times during his days fighting for civil rights.
The Selma March has been reenacted a lot of times on its anniversary. In 2015, President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the march by giving a speech at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the next year, the marchers received a Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian honor.