ATLANTA - Civil Rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis says he understands the pain those who were rioting last night in Atlanta are feeling, but also says looting is not the right approach.
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23: John Lewis attends the U.S. Postal Service Unveiling of the 1963 March On Washington Stamp on August 23, 2013 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images for U.S. Postal Service)
Rep. Lewis urged demonstrators to protest in a non-violent way and to respect the dignity and worth of their fellow human beings.
In a statement released to FOX 5, Lewis said in part: "To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness."
Rep. Lewis went on to say that seeing several videos of unarmed Black Americans being killed brought back memories of Emmett Till.
"Despite real progress, I can't help but think of young Emmett today as I watch video after video after video of unarmed Black Americans being killed, and falsely accused. My heart breaks for these men and women, their families, and the country that let them down — again," Lewis said.
Members of the Guard were seen Saturday morning posted in front of the National College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. The museum had been a target of looters, who smashed its gift shop's windows and made off with merchandise.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order establishing a curfew for the city. The curfew began at 9 p.m. Saturday, May 30. The curfew is set to expire at sunrise on Sunday. May 31.
MARTA announced it would be suspending all rail, bus, streetcar, and paratransit services at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 30 as a result of the curfew.
Sugarloaf Mills shut down Saturday afternoon as groups of protesters gathered in the area.
Friday's protest began peacefully with a rally at Centennial Olympic Park downtown, followed by a march to the state Capitol where protesters met with some lawmakers who are pushing state hate crimes legislation.
Congressmen Lewis' full statement can be read below:
"Sixty-five years have passed, and I still remember the face of young Emmett Till. It was 1955. I was 15 years old — just a year older than him. What happened that summer in Money, Mississippi, and the months that followed — the recanted accusation, the sham trial, the dreaded verdict — shocked the country to its core. And it helped spur a series of non-violent events by everyday people who demanded better from our country.
“Despite real progress, I can't help but think of young Emmett today as I watch video after video after video of unarmed Black Americans being killed, and falsely accused. My heart breaks for these men and women, their families, and the country that let them down — again. My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history. Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, non-violent fashion, we must do so again.
“To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.
“Our work won't be easy — nothing worth having ever is — but I strongly believe, as Dr. King once said, that while the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.”
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