Police Would Treat John Lewis Today the Same Way They Treated Him in 1965Breaking News
tags: civil rights, Police, voting rights, John Lewis
In May, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said a group of protesters who’d been intentionally run over by police officers had “created” the situation in which they were injured by blocking the officers’ car. In June, the NYPD cited the general threat of looting to justify repeated violent attacks against protesters who were charged with loitering-level “crimes” like unlawful assembly and violating curfew. In the District of Columbia, federal park police argued that they were justified in tear-gassing protesters near the White House because the protesters had ignored orders to move so the president could take a photo at a church. In Buffalo, officers enforcing a curfew shoved over a 75-year-old man, causing a severe brain injury. Police in Philadelphia bombarded a group of protesters who were trapped against a hill with tear gas, the city’s mayor explained, because they had threatened public safety by walking on a highway.
On Friday, Georgia Congressman John Lewis died. Lewis is perhaps most famous for having been smashed in the skull with a baton by a highway patrol officer after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, during a 1965 voting rights march, but he was also beaten and arrested during a number of other critical civil rights actions. Many contemporary Americans have taken the occasion of his death to retell a familiar story about his righteous cause, one that ends with everyone in today’s United States—Republican and Democrat, Black and white—on the right side of history.
But history continues around us on terms that would have been familiar to a young John Lewis.