Lawrence O’Donnell: ‘John Lewis paid for progress with his own blood’

Rep. John Lewis
Rep. John Lewis

One of Rep. John Lewis’ great achievements was in fusing “the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement,” said MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnnell.

“John Lewis paid for progress with his own blood. He was beaten viciously by police more than once for the civil rights movement,” said O’Donnell in his Rewrite segment on Wednesday. “Police brutality was one of the cruel facts of life for civil rights marchers, which is why Martin Luther King Jr. referred to police brutality, those words, police brutality twice in his remarkable speech 50 years ago.”

At 23, Lewis spoke at the 1963 March on Washington, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial along MLK. That was day Dr. King gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Congressman Lewis, President Obama and thousands of marchers joined Wednesday to honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

O’Donnell also pointed to a speech given by Lewis in 2007 on “the anniversary of that horrible event” at the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, facing off with state troopers.

“Had a concussion at the bridge. I thought I saw death,” recalled Lewis. “I thought I was going to die.  And I stood up and said something like that.  I don’t understand it, how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam, and cannot send troops to Selma, Alabama, to protect people whom it desires to register to vote.”

O’Donnell said, “In that statement, John Lewis fused the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement.”