The death of Rep. John Lewis on Friday has renewed calls to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, after the civil rights icon.
The push to rename the bridge comes amid a national conversation around monuments, names and symbols that celebrate the Confederacy and their place in America today. The bridge’s namesake, Edmund Pettus, was a Confederate general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.
At age 25, Lewis helped lead the 1965 march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where he and other marchers were met by heavily armed state and local police who brutally beat them with clubs, fracturing Lewis’ skull. The day became known as “Bloody Sunday” and galvanized Americans’ support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
An organization petitioning for the name change, “John Lewis Bridge Project,” said in part in a statement following Lewis’ death: “He dedicated his life to the pursuit of unconditional love and equality for all Americans. His legacy is our legacy, his story is our story.” The petition on Change.org had more than 400,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.
“John Lewis was alive long enough to hear us start this process, unfortunately he is no longer with us and won’t see us finish this. But we will finish this,” the project’s founder Michael Starr Hopkins said in an interview on MSNBC Saturday morning.
The movement also picked up steam on social media.
The Lincoln Project, a super PAC formed by anti-Donald Trump Republicans, quoted a tweet from Preet Bharara that showed Lewis standing before the bridge, saying, “Abe stands with my friend Preet. Let’s honor this good man by renaming the bridge.”