U.S. Rep. John Lewis, whose feud with Donald Trump put Atlanta in the national spotlight, told thousands of marchers in his hometown on Saturday that they have a “moral mission and mandate to agitate.”
“I know something about marching,” said the civil rights icon who led civil rights protests in the 1960s. “We have a moral obligation to fight and never lose hope. We must vote like we never have before.”
Lewis took the stage Saturday to excited chants of “Fifth District,” a reference to his congressional district which Trump lambasted on social media.
Trump lashed out at Lewis after the Democrat questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s election victory and said he would boycott his swearing in. Trump took to Twitter to blast the civil rights icon as “all talk” and slam his Atlanta-based district as a “crime infested” area that is “falling apart.”
Trump’s comments drew a backlash from many who noted that Trump was wrong about Lewis’ district, which includes a wide and diverse swath of Atlanta including the upscale neighborhood of Buckhead, the headquarters of corporate giant Coca-Cola and and schools like Georgia Tech.
Others criticized Lewis for undermining Trump’s election.
On Saturday, Lewis received a hero’s welcome from supporters. He fired up the crowd of about 10,000 before they embarked on a march to the state Capitol.
“We’re going to march in a minute. We’re going to pick em up and put ‘em down. We’re going to send a message,” he said.
“Sometimes you have to turn things upside down to turn things right side up. We cannot afford to be silent.”
Lewis thanked the crowd for their support.
“Thank you, John,” the crowd chanted.
Someone yelled “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he replied.