Tags: Ferguson in Crisis | Rep. John Lewis | Ferguson

Rep. John Lewis: Ferguson, Like Selma, Is Civil Rights 'Turning Point'

Image: Rep. John Lewis: Ferguson, Like Selma, Is Civil Rights 'Turning Point'
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. (Sarah Cole/AL.com/Landov)

By    |   Tuesday, 18 Nov 2014 02:52 PM

Civil rights activist and Georgia Rep. John Lewis says if an indictment is not handed down by a grand jury investigating the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the nation will see "massive, nonviolent protests all over America."

Lewis said those protests will mark a "turning point" in the nation's civil rights history akin to the 1965 demonstrations that took place in Selma, Alabama.

"Selma was the turning point. And I think what happened in Ferguson will be the turning point. I think people are waiting, they’re watching, and we’re gonna see within the next few days what’s going to happen — and that would be massive, nonviolent protests all over America," he said during an appearance on Roland Martin's radio show, according to Mediaite.

On March 7, 1965, Rep. Lewis was one of the 525 civil rights demonstrators who were beaten by police officers as they took part in a march between Selma and Alabama's state capital of Montgomery. The marches were inspired by the killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was demonstrating for voting rights, by a state trooper a month earlier.

"When we were beaten on that bridge in Selma, people couldn’t take it, for they saw it, they heard about it, they read about it, and it lit a sense of righteous indignation. When we see a miscarriage of justice in Ferguson, they’re going to have the same reaction they had towards Selma," the Georgia Democrat added.

Protesters and law enforcement are both preparing for fallout if the Ferguson grand jury decision does not indict Officer Darren Wilson.

On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, which allowed him to activate the National Guard to prepare "for any contingency."

The National Guard would "support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech" and would allow "law enforcement officers to remain focused on community policing and protecting constitutional rights,” Nixon said in a statement.

Protesters in a number of cities also are organizing in preparation for a grand jury verdict.
If an indictment is not issued, protesters will congregate in “hot spots” to express their objections and to call for a Justice Department investigation, Elizabeth Vega, a St. Louis protester told Businessweek.

“We’re organizing, and we are organized,” she said. “You can count on peaceful, but very vigorous and determined civil disobedience.”

Derek Laney, an organizer for a group called Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, told The New York Times that the protesters want to be nonviolent, but also to have an impact.

"We want to appear strong and forceful because we believe in what we’re pursuing. But we also definitely want everyone to know we’re committed to nonviolence. We want to disrupt. We want to make the comfortable uncomfortable,” he said.

The New York Times also revealed that President Barack Obama met with Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders and expressed his concern "about Ferguson staying on course in terms of pursuing" the issue of equality.

Federal law enforcement, however, are preparing for the potential for violence if Wilson is not indicted.

Last Friday, the FBI issued an intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement alerting them to the possibility that violent protests could occur after the grand jury issues its decision, according to CBS News.

The FBI bulletin, which was not based on specific threats, notes the grand jury decision "will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure."

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Civil rights activist and Georgia Rep. John Lewis says if an indictment is not handed down by a grand jury investigating the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the nation will see "massive, nonviolent protests all over America."
Rep. John Lewis, Ferguson
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2014-52-18
Tuesday, 18 Nov 2014 02:52 PM
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