Visitors for Lewis cut off, then reopened, as lines stretched into the night

Many people waited long times to try to pay final respects to John Lewis, and many were unable too as Capitol Police shut the doors after 10 p.m., leaving hundreds on the street still

Visitors lined up to pay final respects to John Lewis stretched into the night beyond the 10 p.m. deadline, and the doors were initially closed but then reopened.

The lines still wrapped around the building and down the block. Some were hoping that the Capitol Police would not close the doors as planned, but shortly after 10 p.m. officers cut off the line outside the building and put up barricades.

There were groans and pleas from the crowd for about 20 minutes. People refused to get out line, but others left.

Finally, the Capitol reopened the doors, and an estimated several hundred more people who had doggedly remained began filing in again.

Democratic political consultant Tharon Johnson said that the governor’s office, funeral home and state police worked in tandem to get the doors back open.

Cedric Ross, the last person to be allowed inside when the doors first closed, said: “I knew John Lewis. He wrote my (recommendation) for law school. I worked a little bit on his campaign, so it would’ve been a shame if I couldn’t see him one last time.”

Artmisha Sheppard, who lives in Conyers, said she was highly disappointed when the doors closed shortly after 10.

July 29, 2020 Atlanta - Thousands of people wait in line outside to the Georgia State Capitol Wednesday night to view the body of Congressman John Lewis on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

She unsuccessfully pleaded with officers to get the line reopened. She, her mom, sister, niece & nephew got in line at 9 p.m. by Memorial Drive. They made it all the way to Washington Street near Mitchell when the line was closed.

They thought anyone in line by 10 p.m. would get in.

“I think it’s totally unfair. Look at all the people still standing out here,” Sheppard said.

She felt like John Lewis would be disappointed, too. As she spoke, people in the crowd started to chant “What trouble? Good trouble!”

It was unclear if Sheppard and her family were among those who got in after the doors reopened.

The lines were long all day, as people stood in the afternoon heat and continued coming into the night,

About 9:30 p.m. Kay Hackney, who just finished her shift as a nurse at Piedmont Hospital, briefly became the last person in line, before several other people walked up behind her.

”What’s a few more hours,” she said.

Hackney said she couldn’t waste the opportunity to see Lewis one last time, a man she saw every year at Atlanta Pride.

”I saw him every year at Pride and shook his hand,” she said. “It will be good to see him one last time.”

Others decided to turn back.

A child wearing a “Black Lives Matter” mask blurted out in amazement, “Look at how long the line is!” to his mother as they left.

When those in line found out that some people waited more hours to see Lewis, many groaned and complained. But none moved out of line.

Among those waiting for their chance inside was 19-year-old Sanaa Gailor. She said she was able to vote for the first time in 2018, which included a vote for Lewis.

”He was pretty much the last civil rights fighter like Malcom X or MLK,” she said. “I live five minutes away, so it would feel wrong not to come out.”

Chinique Griffin, who came to the Capitol with her mother Yvonne and 9-year-old son, said instead she hopes to catch a glimpse of Lewis when he arrives at Ebenezer Baptist Church for the funeral tomorrow.

”It’s not disorganized or anything, but I wanted to wait for it to cool down before I came out here,” Yvonne Griffin said.

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