The civil rights icon issues a call—"All of us should be up on our feet"—to protest partisan voting restrictions this election season.
-By Andrew Cohen
August 26, 2012-
And the major paused for about a minute, and he said, troopers advance. And you saw these men putting on their gas masks. They came toward us, beating us with nightsticks, bullwhips, tramping us with horses, releasing the teargas. I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick. My legs went from under me. I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death.
I had a concussion there at the bridge, and I don't recall 45 years later how we made it back across the bridge, crossing the Alabama River back to this little church that we left from. And when we returned to the church, the church was full to capacity. More than 2,000 people outside trying to get in to protect what had happened. And someone asked me to say something to the audience.
And I stood up and said, I don't understand it. I don't understand it, how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam and cannot send troops to Selma, Alabama, to protect people whose only desire is to register to vote. And the next thing I realized, I had been admitted to the Good Samaritan Hospital, a short distance away. There were 17 other people who had been hurt.
–Rep. John Lewis (D- Ga.), on NPR in 2010, marking the 45th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
If there is an American alive today who is well suited to evaluate the partisan push for new restrictive voting laws this election cycle, it is Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who put his skull where his heart and mind were on the Edmund Pettus Bridge all those years ago. But to merely read the words above doesn't do justice to what happened that day. Here's an interview the congressman did earlier this year with Stephen Colbert. In it you can hear, you can see, you can feel the profound impact the event had upon Rep. Lewis' life and, indeed, upon the life of the nation.