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Support swells for renaming Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to honor John Lewis after his death

In the wake of Rep. John LewisJohn LewisKwanza Hall wins race to briefly succeed John Lewis in Congress Congress must act to protect and expand Social Security benefits Ossoff features Obama in TV ad ahead of Georgia runoff MORE’s (D-Ga.) death, social media users are renewing a call to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., after the civil rights icon instead of the Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader. 

Lewis died on Friday at the age of 80, more than five decades after he almost lost his life while crossing the bridge during the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march.

Social media users took to Twitter to honor the longtime congressman, again calling for the bridge to be renamed in his memory.

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“There’s a bridge [that] needs a new name,” former U.S. Attorney Preet BhararaPreetinder (Preet) Singh BhararaWhat a Biden administration should look like Democratic attorneys criticize House Judiciary Democrats' questioning of Barr Clyburn echoes calls to rename Pettus bridge MORE wrote, a call echoed by anti-Trump super PAC The Lincoln Project.

“It would be fitting to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after John Lewis the conscience of Congress,” NBC News correspondent Andrew Mitchell wrote. “He once told me how the Kennedy brothers did not agree to the Oval Office meeting with Dr. King before the ‘63 March until afterward because they feared it would be violent.”

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Hundreds other joined the call, many directing supporters to a petition created last month on Change.org that had as many as 386,257 signatures as of Saturday morning.

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Lewis joined hundreds of marchers during the 1965 protest for Black voting rights. Marchers intended to go from Selma to Montgomery, but they were stopped on the other side of the bridge in Selma and met by police officers and vigilantes with sticks and billy clubs.

When the demonstrators refused to leave, the troopers launched violent attacks using bullwhips, tear gas and nightsticks and charged at the marchers with their horses. A state trooper beat Lewis with a nightstick so severely that it caused a skull fracture.

The graphic images of the violence sparked public outrage that pushed Congress to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act, which then-President Johnson signed into law in August 1965.

Lewis returned to the site with an annual delegation to educate his fellow lawmakers on the movement.

“Our country will never be the same because of what happened on this bridge,” Lewis said in 2015 at the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, where he was joined by then-President Obama. 

Michael Starr Hopkins, a political strategist, last month launched “The John Lewis Bridge Project” and created the petition which asks Alabama Gov. Kay IveyKay IveyAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Ballot initiatives in Colorado, Louisiana could restrict abortion access Alabama lieutenant governor tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R) to rename the bridge.

The Hill has reached out to Ivey’s office for comment.

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Pettus, a Confederate general and leader in the Alabama KKK, “doesn't deserve to have his name on that bridge,” Hopkins said. 

“We should not be honoring someone who not only aided in dividing this country and going to war with this country, but was part of a terrorist organization that murdered millions of African Americans,” Hopkins added. 

The bridge was named for Pettus in 1940, more than three decades after Pettus’s death. 

“I can't think of a more fitting person to have that bridge named after,” Hopkins said of Lewis.

Hopkins’s petition had already been endorsed by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Rep. Terri SewellTerrycina (Terri) Andrea SewellDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Lobbying world Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Ala.), as well as Ava DuVernay, who directed the 2014 film “Selma” that depicts the march, and actress Kerry Washington.