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Occupy Atlanta Blasted for Perceived Snub of Rep. John Lewis

Congressman wanted to speak, but said he wasn't offended that group decided to stick to its agenda

The Twitter world has been abuzz all weekend over what some feel is a slap in the face to John Lewis, the Civil Rights Movement icon and Democratic congressman from Georgia.

Lewis, no stranger to protests, came to — an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, the growing national movement protesting the what they say is corporate greed and government corruption.

When he asked to speak to address the crowd of some 200 people who had assembled, a discussion ensued about whether he should be allowed since he wasn't on the planned agenda.

Some in the crowd supported breaking from the agenda and letting Lewis, 71, speak. But others said the group should stick to the agenda, which was to address various subcommittee reports and core goals.

After several minutes of discussions and people in the crowd voicing their opinions, the group decided to stick to the original agenda.

As a compromise, the group said he could speak later at some point but it wasn't clear when that would be. But by then, the congressman said he would have to leave because he had another commitment at 7 p.m.

That he left without speaking didn't sit well with some in the crowd who felt the congressman was disrespected. Some left in protest.

And numerous Tweets and retweets have gone out calling the protesters either ignorant about Lewis' history of advocacy, or racist for voting against letting him speak. This Tweet was typical: "RACIST -- Occupy Atlanta Mob Refuses To Allow Civil Rights Hero John Lewis To Speak."

As he left Friday evening, Lewis told reporters he wasn't upset and didn't feel dissed. Lewis said what happened was similar to his days as a youth in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the quest for black civil rights.

"In another period and when I was very young, and head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, we participated in a similar process," Lewis said. "We'd discuss, we'debate and we reached consensus, so this nothing strange or out of the ordinary for me."

Asked if he was disappointed at not being able to speak, Lewis replied: "No, not at all."

Occupy Wall Street, which launched Sept. 17, is not even a month old, which Lewis alluded to in answering another question about the process for decision making among its membership.

"Well, it will work out," Lewis said. "It will grow and mature, and it will come of age."

Occupy Atlanta's organizing meeting on Friday lasted at least 5 hours. The group agreed to occupy Woodruff Park, which has a recent history of being home to large numbers of homeless people.

On Sunday, a few dozen tents were pitched on park grounds. There were few police officers present.

Katherine M October 10, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Have you seen the video of these freaks "voting" on whether or not to let Lewis speak? Hey I'm upset at Obama too for bailing out banks and Wall St firms, but these people are nothing but communist hippie scum.
Esther Harbert October 11, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Katherine, They should have been honored that Lewis even showed up! Calling them names leaves no room for debate and discussion. Challenging the status quo is a precious freedom in this country; please don't dis those who exercise it. Esther
Annabeth Balance October 11, 2011 at 06:25 PM
John Lewis has them all beat by a landslide. He got it absolutely correct -- what happened out there in the park is JUST like what he and the others did in SNCC -- it's a bunch of young kids who have fire in their bellies over a just cause, and they're making up the rules as they go. He was quite familiar with the process, and with the impetus. He knows there will be mistakes made, and that they are sincere even though perhaps immature politically. God love him. and God bless us all. Annabeth

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