The weekend marked a year since the death of Georgian congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris honored Lewis’ death by calling on Congress to pass the voting rights bills in light of recent GOP proposals.
Biden released a statement honoring the first anniversary of Lewis’ death, recalling the last conversation he had with the civil rights icon with his wife, the first lady, Dr Jill Biden. Lewis died at the age of 80 after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. The Georgia congressman was the last of six great civil rights activists led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Lewis was best known for leading around 600 protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in an event known as Bloody Sunday. Alabama State Troopers beat Lewis and protesters who marched for the right to vote. Nashville, Tennessee, also commemorated Lewis’ death over the weekend and renamed part of 5th Avenue to represent John Lewis Way.
In Harris’ statement, she said Lewis was an “American hero”. Both urged Congress to pass the proposals to ensure voter rights and protections as well as expand voter access. The proposals come in light of dozens of bills drafted by Republicans in state legislatures that seek to make reforms that are criticized as efforts to make voting less accessible rather than more. The proposals would disproportionately affect people and communities of color.
“Congressman Lewis has fought tirelessly for the highest ideals of our country: freedom and justice for all, and for the right of every American to have their voice heard at the polls,” said Harris in the press release.
Harris was previously appointed to lead the Biden administration’s efforts to protect voting rights. Recently, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that Harris tested negative for COVID-19, following his meeting with Democratic lawmakers at Texas State House, three of whom tested positive. An official in Harris’s office said the tests took place before she went to her doctor’s appointment at Walter Reed and not because of her meeting with lawmakers.