Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a veteran of the civil rights movement, said he never felt ill will towards police officers who “beat him bloody” during demonstrations in the 1960s.
Lewis, who was beaten by state troopers on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama in 1964, said on Twitter Friday that Americans “must learn to live together as brothers and sisters” and called for action to end gun violence. He said that he feels the country is “sliding backwards” with regard to race relations and that racism is “still deeply embedded in American society.”
Lewis’ comments came in the wake of a sniper shooting in Dallas that killed five police officers at a peaceful protest following the earlier shootings of two black men. Alton Sterling, 37, was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Tuesday after an officer shot him while Sterling was pinned to the ground. Philando Castile, 32, was killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota as he reached for his wallet during a traffic stop.
Police officers in Dallas were protecting peaceful protestors when a sniper began shooting at them, striking 12 officers. The gunman, who has been identified as Army veteran Micah X. Johnson, told police he wanted to “kill white people.” Authorities killed Johnson with a bomb they sent near him using a robot after negotiations for him to disarm were unsuccessful.
Sterling’s family denounced the Dallas shootings as “reprehensible acts of violence” and said the vast majority of law enforcement “conduct themselves honorably as they protect and serve our communities.”
“Regardless of how angry or upset people may be, resorting to this kind of sickening violence should never happen and simply cannot be tolerated,” the statement said. “Responding to violence with violence is not the answer.”