Reps. Karen Bass and Val Demings appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”
To honor the life and legacy of death of death of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that the Voting Rights Advancement Act should be passed.
“I know that if he was still with us, he would be leading that fight,” Bass said of the Georgia congressman who died Friday.
“What we have to do is live up to his legacy. We need to continue that fight for social justice. And again, the first thing we need to do is to pass the voting rights act and get it signed,” Bass told ABC’s “This Week” Co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., speaking after Bass on “This Week,” also highlighted Lewis’ legacy.
“John Lewis has left us a great roadmap. And if we can continue to be half of the servant fighting for social justice that John Lewis was, then we’re going to be OK.”
Rep. Val Demings says Rep. John Lewis “left us a great roadmap” in the fight for social justice.
“John Lewis loved the young protesters, and demonstrated by his actions. He would always stop and take time to interact with them.” https://t.co/S2O0v7td0x pic.twitter.com/9mFjzTH0o2
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) July 19, 2020
In December, House Democrats passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019, which would restore certain key protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act against racial discrimination that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013.
“I have said this before, and I will say it again. The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy,” Lewis said in a statement supporting the bill in 2019.
Known as the “conscience of the U.S. Congress,” Lewis spent over three decades in the House of Representatives after rising as a leader of the 1960s civil rights movement.
A central organizer of the 1961 Freedom Rides, Lewis went on to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), speaking at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the age of 23.
Two years later, in 1965, in what would become known as “Bloody Sunday,” Lewis and hundreds of demonstrators in a march for voting rights were beaten by dozens of state troopers in Selma, Alabama. One of the troopers fractured Lewis’ skull, scarring his head for the rest of his life.
The events in Selma shocked the country and led, in part, to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In recent years, Lewis had an adversarial relationship with President Donald Trump, refusing to attend his inauguration over claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The president fired back against Lewis days before his swearing-in writing in a tweet that the congressman “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complain about the election results. All talk, talk talk — no action of results. Sad!”
At the time, Lewis was one of the first high-ranking Democrats to allege Trump’s presidency was illegitimate due to Russia’s interference in the election.
The morning after Lewis’ death, Bass took to Twitter and urged the president to abstain from saying anything about the civil rights icon.
“While the nation mourns the passing of a national hero, please say nothing. Please don’t comment on the life of Congressman Lewis. … Please let us mourn in peace,” Bass wrote.
Trump did offer condolences over Lewis’ death hours later on Twitter.
“I’m glad that the president’s tweet was appropriate … but I think that we need to have the flags at half mast, until he is laid to rest. And I believe that his legacy will live on,” Bass said.
ABC News’ Benjamin Siu and Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this report.
This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.