One day following the tragic news that Representative John Lewis died, a petition circulated online, asking for the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to be renamed after him.
On March 7, 1965, Lewis marched on the infamous bridge during the Civil Rights Movement. During this time, around 150 Alabama state troopers attacked protesters as they attempted to cross the viaduct, demanding for voting rights. As a result, many suffered injuries, including the representative, whose skull was fractured.
Despite that adversity, Lewis testified about the events that took place a week later. Every year since then, several protesters have marched across the bridge. On Saturday morning (July 18), a Change.org petition called for the bridge to be named after the late 80-year-old as a way to pay homage to his efforts over the years.
“It’s far past time to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon that nearly gave his life on that bridge,” Michael Starr Hopkins, the petition’s creator, wrote. “Edmund Pettus was a bitter racist, undeserving of the honor bestowed upon him. As we wipe away this country’s long stain of bigotry, we must also wipe away the names of men like Edmund Pettus.”
NBC News correspondent Andrew Mitchell shared a similar sentiment, adding that the bridge should be renamed. “It would be fitting to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after John Lewis the conscience of Congress,” he wrote on Twitter. “He once told me how the Kennedy brothers did not agree to the Oval Office meeting with Dr. King before the ‘63 March until afterward because they feared it would be violent.”
After learning news of Lewis’ passing, Barack Obama penned an emotional letter. In it, the former president highlighted the civil rights leader’s hard work and dedication. “Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise,” he wrote.