The PJ Tatler

Rep. Lewis on Civil Rights Era: 'Do You Want to Go Back?'

A congressman who was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders in the Civil Rights Movement alluded that a Republican administration would take the country back to those turbulent days.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told a moving story to the Democratic National Convention about a man who was part of a mob that beat him and other civil rights activists decades ago. A few years ago, “He came to my office in Washington and said, ‘I am one of the people who beat you. I want to apologize. Will you forgive me?’ I said I accept your apology. He started crying. He gave me a hug. I hugged him back. And we both started crying.”

“This man and I don’t want to go back. We don’t want to go back,” Lewis continued. “Brothers and sisters, do you want to go back?”

The congressman told the Democrats that their vote is “the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.”

“Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials that are trying to stop some people from voting. They’re changing – they’re changing the rules; cutting polling hours and imposing a requirement intended to suppress the vote,” Lewis said. “The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter ID law is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state. That’s not right. That’s not fair. And that is not just.”

“And soon efforts will be made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve seen this before. I lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote,” he said. “And we have come too far together to ever turn back. So, Democrats, we must not be silent. We must stand up, speak up and speak out.”