Congressman John Lewis, an American hero who put his life in harm’s way repeatedly to try to eradicate racial and other forms of injustice, was blatantly snubbed at the Occupy Atlanta assembly that he supports. The disrespect sparked angry outbursts in Twittersphere, including a profane response from hip-hop icon Russell Simmons.

Lewis, D-Ga., was cheered loudly when he was introduced by a rally organizer at #occupyatlanta, a spin-off from the Occupy Wall Street protest movement that has swept the country. But then he was denied the microphone for some inexplicable reason.

Despite receiving the approval of the majority of the crowd, Lewis was blocked from speaking because of a single person who opposed Lewis speaking before the assembly finished their agenda.

The diss has fired up progressives nationwide.

“To #occupyatlanta General Assembly: You are a bunch of (blank)heads. Congressman John Lewis is an American hero. He supports the Wall Street protesters that spawned Occupy Atlanta,” wrote hip-hop mogul and famed humanitarian Russell Simmons, adding “[When] white people catch a cold, blacks get pneumonia. We must join in #occupywallstreet. Education and health care cut while rich get richer.”

“Disappointed to hear that John Lewis was not allowed to speak at #OccupyAtlanta,” added New York DJ Jay Smooth in another tweet. “Hoping organizers will hear feedback and learn from it.”

I share the sentiments as well as the ferocity of Simmons’ statement. If there is one person in Congress who should have been allowed to speak at this grass roots assembly, it should have been Lewis. His unapologetic liberalism and progressive beliefs make him an outcast in Washington, D.C.,  and anyone rejected by the majority of Congress should automatically be seen in a positive light by the masses. His image and reputation are impeccable. Even people who don’t sympathize with his beliefs respect him because he is an untarnished and honorable humanitarian.

This '60s-era photo depicts one of the many times Lewis, left, was beaten senselessly in the fight for human rights.

Secondly, the #OccupyAtlanta assembly was an irritating mess. That method of chanting and having the crowd repeat every few words of every speaker was ridiculous and prevented cohesion.

Thirdly, the rally organizers basically impaled themselves with the move to deny Lewis an opportunity to speak. I thought that the reason Occupy Wall Street began in New York in the first place was to get the attention of lawmakers and urge them to make fundamental changes to the financial structure in this country.

Lastly and most important, Lewis has publicly come out in support of the whole Occupy Wall Street movement that’s caught on like wildfire. While other lawmakers and presidential candidates blast the movement, including Georgia’s own Newt Gingrich, Lewis is a high-profile and powerful ally that the movement can ill afford to spurn. He can help give the movement the oxygen it needs to sustain and grow.

Here you have a celebrated and admired lawmaker come to your rally and you don’t let him speak because you want to finish your agenda. This is totally ludicrous because #OccupyAtlanta had, in effect, achieved its objective by gaining the ear and respect of someone of Lewis’ stature. And then you turn around and blatantly disrespect him. Lewis was much too gracious in explaining away the diss, basically saying these are different times that we live in.

Good luck getting another current or former representative of Congress to come down and speak before you at future events. Gingrich is most certainly not coming.

terry shropshire


Terry Shropshire

I'm a lover of words, pictures, people and The Ohio State Buckeyes. A true journalist from the soul.