Icon, hero, giant : the tributes have multiplied on Saturday after the death the previous day of John Lewis, an iconic non-violence and civil rights in the United States, a former companion of Martin Luther King and a member of the u.s. Congress since 1986, passed away at the age of 80 years.
This veteran of the struggle of the Afro-American has led his whole life in a heated battle against racial discrimination, and has been beaten by the police and arrested multiple times during protests.
The president, Donald Trump, John Lewis had boycotted the swearing-in, has ordered that the flags be half-masted on all public buildings, including the White House, in tribute to the memory of the elected.
“The America deplores the disappearance of one of the greatest heroes of american history “, wrote the president of the House of representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
Ms. Pelosi has described Lewis, a democrat like her, and who succumbed to cancer of the pancreas, as ” a titan of the civil rights movement, whose goodness, faith, and bravery have transformed our nation “.
Considered as one of the voices of the most respected in the country for justice and equality, it was in spite of the illness made his return to Washington in June, in turmoil after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, to participate in the mobilization anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter.
“The winds blow, the big change happens,” said Lewis a few days earlier.
A Militant of the first hour
The son of sharecroppers, the activist indomitable became 21 years old one of the youngest Freedom Riders (travelers of the freedom) who fought segregation in the transport system of american in the early 1960s.
He was the youngest leader of the march on Washington in 1963, at which Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech, “I have a dream” (I do a dream).
Two years later, John Lewis has failed to succumb under the blows of the police on the bridge, Edmund Pettus in Selma, Alabama, where he led a march of hundreds of peaceful activists against racial discrimination. He had a fractured skull.
“John Lewis is really become a giant by the examples that he has shown “, has praised Saturday the son of the shepherd King.
In 2015, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the ” bloody Sunday “, Lewis had crossed the bridge, hand in hand with Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States history.
Since his death, the calls multiply to rename it to its name, this bridge, which pays homage to a confederate general and leader of the local Ku Klux Klang.
Barack Obama had awarded him the presidential Medal of freedom, the highest american peacetime award, in 2011.
“Few of us live to see our own legacies develop in a way that is both remarkable and significant. John Lewis has done, “tweeted Barack Obama, stressing that the former activist” so loved his country that he risked his life for him.”
His former vice-president, the democratic candidate for the presidency, Joe Biden, said that she had spoken to John Lewis there are only a few days.
“He asked us to stay focused on the work that remains to be done to heal this nation,” he explained.
“The conscience of the Congress “
John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, on February 21, 1940, the third child of a family of ten. Raised in a community almost entirely black, he quickly became aware of the segregation in this southern State of the United States.
He started by organizing sit-ins at the counters of restaurants imposing racial segregation, and was arrested twenty times during non-violent protests, before founding and later directing the coordinating Committee, students for non-violence.
Elected from Georgia since 1986, he was the ” conscience of the Congress “, according to Nancy Pelosi.
Tributes also came from the camp republican.
He was “an icon” and “leaves a lasting legacy that will never be forgotten,” said the spokesman of the White House, Kayleigh McEnany.
And Mitch McConnell, speaker of the Senate, praised the ” civil rights pioneer who did not hesitate to put his life on the line to combat racism, to promote equal rights and place our nation in accordance with its founding principles “.
Abroad, the French president Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to a “hero” who ” so much progress has been conquered “.