Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis (D-GA) planned to offer words of encouragement to protestors at a recent “Occupy Atlanta” demonstration. But participants of the event denied him an opportunity to speak.
According to Atlanta's CBS affiliate WGCL-TV, protesters gathered in Atlanta's Woodruff Park on Oct. 8. They convened to hold their version of New York's “Occupy Wall Street”, which has been happening for nearly a month. Similar demonstrations have been held in several cities across the country.
The protesters are mainly voicing their frustrations with the government's relationship with big business, among an assortment of other issues.
Lewis dropped by Atlanta's event and wanted to voice his words of encouragement, but participants never gave him a chance to speak. The event was recorded and posted on YouTube.
“I was going to say, `I stand with you,’” Lewis told reporters later, according to CBS Atlanta. “`I support you, what you're doing.’”
The incident angered numerous spectators.
“I am angry because this is not what democracy is all about,” Michelle Williams, an attendee of the event told CBS Atlanta. “This is Marxist more Stalin like… You're just riff-raff. You're an organized mob.”
Atlanta's FOX affiliate WAGA-TV sat down with Lewis a few days after the event. He explained that he didn't feel slighted, but was perplexed by the unstructured gathering.
“I have not witnessed anything like this,” Lewis told WAGA-TV. "I didn't quite understand the language. When people said 'mic check,' I didn't understand that. In order to speak, you had to say 'mic check.' So, I guess I represent a different period.”
Lewis played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement in the '60s as a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. He and the organization led a series of boycotts, demonstrations and protests and was a member of the revered Freedom Riders.