Former US President Barack Obama on Thursday launched his strongest attack to date against President Donald Trump, condemning the use of federal agents against protesters and attempted electoral repression in the United States.
“Today we are witnessing with our own eyes, police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans,” Obama said in a eulogy at the emotional funeral service in Atlanta for civil rights leader John Lewis.
“We can see our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful protesters,” the former president said.
Obama did not mention Trump by name, but he was clearly referring to the actions of the Republican president, who used troops to evacuate protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House and sent federal agents to quell protests in Portland. , Oregon.
Obama criticized alleged Republican attempts to suppress the minority vote and Trump’s repeated attacks on postal voting less than 100 days before the November contest against Democrat Joe Biden.
“Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their best to discourage people from voting by closing polling stations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws. and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in preparation for an election that will depend on postal ballots so people don’t get sick, ”he said.
Paying tribute to Lewis, who died on July 17 at the age of 80, Obama said the congressman’s lifelong fight for the civil rights of African Americans paved the way for him to become the first black president the United States.
Lewis, a 17-term Democratic congressman from Georgia, has done “all he can to preserve this democracy and as long as we have the breath in our bodies we must continue his cause,” said Obama.
“As long as the young people are protesting in the streets hoping for real change to take hold, I hope,” he said.
“But we can’t just drop them off at the polls. Not when few elections have been as urgent on so many levels as this one. ”
Lewis’s funeral was also attended by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Former President Jimmy Carter, 95, was unable to attend, but sent a letter which was read to mourners at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr served as the pastor in the 1960s.
“His enormous contributions will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come,” Carter wrote.
Bush, a Republican, said he had his “differences” with Lewis, a Democrat pillar, but “we live in a better and nobler country today because of John Lewis.”
“He believed in humanity and he believed in America,” said Bush.
In his tribute, Clinton referred to a column Lewis wrote for publication in The New York Times on the day of his funeral service.
“Although my time here is now over, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life, you inspired me.
Representative John Lewis wrote this essay shortly before his death. @NYTOpinion is posting it today, the day of his funeral. https://t.co/kAms0ogrCU
– The New York Times (@nytimes) 30 juillet 2020
“Although I am not here with you, I urge you to answer your heart’s highest calling and stand up for what you truly believe,” Lewis wrote. “So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.
“It’s so fitting that on the day of his service he leaves us our marching orders,” Clinton said. “I suggest we say hello, get dressed and walk. ”
Before Thursday’s funeral, Lewis’s body was in order at the United States Capitol, an honor rarely bestowed, so that Americans could pay them their last respects.
On Sunday, a single caisson transported Lewis’s body to the Alabama Bridge, where in 1965 a police officer fractured his skull in a protest that helped forge his reputation as a fearless civil rights leader.
Lewis’s death came in a year in which the “Black Lives Matter” protests against police brutality brought thousands to America’s streets, underscoring the still raw depths of the nation’s racial history. .
Lewis grew up in the town of Troy, Alabama. His parents were sharecroppers and he used to work in a cotton field. While attending separate schools, Lewis was inspired by the peaceful protests of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.