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John Lewis Responds to Rush Limbaugh's Claim that Guns Would Have Made Civil Rights Struggle Easier

U.S. Congressman responds to talk show host's claims that Lewis would not have been beaten up during the 1965 Alabama civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery had he had a gun.

 

On his national radio program this past Friday, Rush Limbaugh was making a point that in his opinion liberals had made the gun debate about race.

Limbaugh, who can be heard locally weekdays from noon-3 p.m. on AM 750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB, asked his listeners,

"Try this. If a lot of African-Americans back in the sixties had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, do you think they woulda needed Selma? I don't know. I'm just asking. If John Lewis, who says he was beat upside the head, if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge.”

During the 1965 Alabama civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, state troopers beat the unarmed protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Lewis suffered a concussion. The protesters had been demonstrating for the need for voting rights for African Americans in Alabama.

Later on Friday, Rep. John Lewis, who represents the 5th Congressional District that covers a diverse swath of metro Atlanta that stretches from Buckhead to Forest Park and Decatur to Sandtown, issued a press release correcting the conservative talk show host’s misrepresentation of the civil rights movement.

Responding to Limbaugh today, Lewis said in a press release

"Our goal in the Civil Rights Movement was not to injure or destroy but to build a sense of community, to reconcile people to the true oneness of all humanity. African Americans in the 60s could have chosen to arm themselves, but we made a conscious decision not to. We were convinced that peace could not be achieved through violence. Violence begets violence, and we believed the only way to achieve peaceful ends was through peaceful means. We took a stand against an unjust system, and we decided to use this faith as our shield and the power of compassion as our defense.

"And that is why this nation celebrates the genius and the elegance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s work and philosophy. Through the power of non-violent action, Dr. King accomplished something that no movement, no action of government, no war, no legislation, or strategy of politics had ever achieved in this nation's history. It was non-violence that not only brought an end to legalized segregation and racial discrimination, but Dr. King's peaceful work changed the hearts of millions of Americans who stood up for justice and rejected the injury of violence forever."

What are your thoughts about Limbaugh's comments and the response from Lewis? Let us know in the comment box below.

The full press release from the Lewis office reads as follows:

In an effort to encourage people to resist new gun control legislation, a statement was made on The Rush Limbaugh Show today which misrepresents Civil Rights Movement history. In the shadow of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, in the year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in August, and a little more than a month before the annual celebration of the events in Selma, Rep. John Lewis was glad to address this inaccuracy.

"Our goal in the Civil Rights Movement was not to injure or destroy but to build a sense of community, to reconcile people to the true oneness of all humanity," said Rep. John Lewis. "African Americans in the 60s could have chosen to arm themselves, but we made a conscious decision not to. We were convinced that peace could not be achieved through violence.  Violence begets violence, and we believed the only way to achieve peaceful ends was through peaceful means. We took a stand against an unjust system, and we decided to use this faith as our shield and the power of compassion as our defense.

"And that is why this nation celebrates the genius and the elegance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s work and philosophy. Through the power of non-violent action, Dr. King accomplished something that no movement, no action of government, no war, no legislation, or strategy of politics had ever achieved in this nation's history. It was non-violence that not only brought an end to legalized segregation and racial discrimination, but Dr. King's peaceful work changed the hearts of millions of Americans who stood up for justice and rejected the injury of violence forever."

WHAT HAPPENED IN SELMA ALABAMA?

On March 7, 1965, 600 peaceful nonviolent Civil Rights workers attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in Alabama. The march was led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams. They were met on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by Alabama state troopers who beat the unarmed marchers. Lewis suffered a concussion on the bridge. A few days after the march President Lyndon Johnson introduced a bill to the Congress which became the Voting Rights Act of 1965, described as one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has issued in the past 50 years. An important section of the Voting Rights Act is currently in jeopardy and will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in February.  

TOPersaud January 24, 2013 at 02:40 AM
If we had used guns, it would have justified the use of violence by others and the bloodshed would have been horendous. This is why violence is not used because it simply keeps the vicious cycle going and the cause of the just are conveniently silenced. Martin Luther King Jr. realized and said that the use of violence not only would be inhumane but more importantly impractical in achieving our aims of integration and racial equality
Bruce Mitchell January 24, 2013 at 05:43 AM
Limbaugh is such a big one you could drive a 747 through it.
Barbara Brockway January 24, 2013 at 01:43 PM
As usual, John Lewis has a thoughtful, intelligent answer for an issue he has obviously carefully considered, unlike the squawking radio host trying to twist facts into support for his opinion. The underlying tenet of the civil rights struggle was change through nonviolence.

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