Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) on Friday recalled the day known as “Bloody Sunday” ― when he and several hundred others marched the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama in 1965 ― while campaigning for Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Georgia.
“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, 53 years ago,” Lewis told the crowd at a rally. “I almost died. Some of my friends and colleagues were murdered in Mississippi and other places.”
The congressman and voting rights activist was 25 years old when he had his head fractured by law enforcement officers while peacefully marching along the bridge over the Alabama River to Montgomery in March 7, 1965. The march intended to call attention to black disenfranchisement in the South and followed the slaying of activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot by a state trooper during a peaceful civil rights protest.
At the rally, Lewis urged voters to show up to the polls for Abrams, saying voting is the “most powerful nonviolent” instrumental tool in society.
“I’m not asking any of you to give any blood,” he said. “I’m just asking you to go and vote like you never voted before. We have to vote.”
Lewis also acknowledged the many times he has been arrested while fighting for equality. “I’m probably going to get arrested again for something,” he said as the crowd laughed and cheered.
“I’m not suggesting that any of you should go out and get arrested, but when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, stand up and say something, do something,” he said.
Lewis’ speech touching on voting rights is particularly poignant considering the allegations of black voter suppression in Georgia.
Abrams, who has long fought for voting rights, has accused her Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, of voter suppression.
Former President Barack Obama, who spoke at Friday’s rally along with Lewis, told the crowd: “Georgia, be unafraid. If their efforts to take away your right to vote makes you mad, there’s only one way to make it right: Don’t boo, vote.”