A 10-minute video clip of U.S. Rep. John Lewis‘ unsuccessful attempt to address the Occupy Atlanta gathering in Woodruff Park is burning up the blog and Twittersphere.
To put it mildly, it’s not going over well in some circles.
To #occupyatlanta General Assembly. You are a bunch of (blank)heads. Congressman John Lewis is an American hero,” tweeted hip hop industry mogul and activist Russell Simmons. He supports the Wall Street protestors that spawned Occupy Atlanta, though, tweeting more recently, “White people catch a cold blacks get pneumonia. We must join in #occupywallstreet. Education and health care cut while rich get richer.”
Jay Smooth, a hip hop DJ in New York, tweeted, “Disappointed to hear that John Lewis was not allowed to speak at #OccupyAtlanta. Hoping organizers will hear feedback and learn from it.”
The video clip of the protesters discussing the matter, and of Lewis leaving without speaking, has been gathering steam online. As of about 11:15 a.m. today it had logged more than 180,000 views on YouTube. In the clip, the protestors discuss the matter by repeating phrases, vote by waving their hands and ultimately decide that Lewis should come back later. At one point someone off camera shouts “John Lewis is no better than anyone else!”
Lewis, a Civil Rights Era icon, was gracious when we asked him about the matter. ”It’s ok,” he said during a brief interview Sunday night at the Woodruff Arts Center, site of a 90th birthday celebration for his fellow Civil Rights Era activist, the Rev. Joseph Lowery. Both the park and arts center are named for the late corporate titan Robert Woodruff, a longtime president of Coca-Cola and major philanthropist.
Lewis had been en route to a Pride event when he stopped by Woodruff Park.
“They didn’t really deny me,” Lewis said. The protestors decided he could return after their agenda items had been completed, but because of the Pride event, Lewis didn’t have time to wait around. The group has since issued a statement saying, “We are dismayed that anything we have done would seem to show disrespect for a man whom many of us revere, and apologize to everyone who was hurt or angered by our actions.” And they say Lewis can come back.
Lewis said he was not dismayed, despite his key role in the nation’s struggle for civil rights, that he was not more eagerly received when he initially stopped by the park.
“These are different times,” he said.
- Jennifer Brett/The Buzzfirstname.lastname@example.org