U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Rev. Bernice King, Mayor Kasim Reed and other leaders urge calm after Ferguson grand jury decision

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights movement, is among the many Atlanta leaders reacting to the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting that left Michael Brown dead.

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis in a vintage photo taken in Selma, Ala.

 

“I know this hard,” he tweeted. “I know this is difficult. Do not succumb to the temptations of violence. There is a more powerful way. .”

His role in Rev. Martin Luther King’s historic marches in Selma, Ala. in the summer of 1965 is portrayed in the movie “Selma,” filmed partly in Atlanta and coming out in limited release on Christmas Day (wide release Jan 9).

“The notion that we are in a post-racial society is a complete fallacy,” said British actor David Oyelowo, who portrays Dr. King in the movie, during an interview today. “You only have to juxtapose the images (from the Selma, Alabama violence) with those we see from those coming out of Ferguson.”

The Atlanta Police Department had no related incidents to report following the grand jury’s decision Monday night.

Rev. Bernice King, Dr. King’s daughter and now CEO of the King Center, released a lengthy statement earlier in the day, prior to the announcement.

“The progress of the revolution for social change is heavily dependent on whether we are a concerned generation, whether we are awake and on how we answer this question: Decades from now, what do we want historians to write about this moment?” her midday statement read in part.

She released another statement after the grand jury decision announcement:

“I am praying for ‪#‎MikeBrown‬‘s parents, family and ‪#‎Ferguson‬ ‪#‎StLouis‬. As heartbroken and outraged as I am by the grand jury’s decision, I know that it does not compare to what Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden are feeling. Please, please, please…Let’s choose strategy and discipline over destruction and frustration.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement that “while many are saddened and angered by the grand jury’s decision, I urge everyone taking part in demonstrations to do so in a peaceful manner.  I support the efforts of local leaders to promote non-violent expression by self-policing and elevating the voices of community members.

Equally important, I believe we should respect the wishes of Michael Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., that all protests be conducted in a way that honors his son’s memory, rather than distract from it.  It is also essential that all local, state, and federal law enforcement officials show proper restraint and respect every citizen’s constitutional right to assemble.  Atlanta’s history demonstrates that we can come together and protest in a non-violent and peaceful fashion.

Going forward, I encourage the United States Department of Justice to conduct a complete review of how Michael Brown’s killing has been handled thus far. Both the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have opened civil rights investigations, and I look forward to the release of their findings.

Finally, let’s not forget what this case is really about. It’s about the deep pain and sorrow that a mother and father have lived through since their son was killed more than three months ago.  We must view this case, not just through our own eyes, but through the eyes of parents who lost a child. While this decision does not do justice to Michael Brown and his family, it serves as an opportunity for Atlanta, and the rest of the nation, to engage in a thoughtful conversation on how to build greater trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves released this statement:

“Communities all over our nation continue to heal from the unrest following the shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown by a police officer in that city.  The case heightened how divisive issues of race continue to be.  Fulton County and Atlanta can and should remain a symbol of the best among us and places that set examples of the best way to deal with these issues.  That is why in the wake of the grand jury’s decision in that city, I urge our residents to remain calm as those who object to that decision make their feelings known in a peaceful manner.

As the cradle of the civil rights movement, Atlanta has been the scene of many peaceful protests as our residents have made their feelings known on so many important societal issues.  My hope is that the decision made in Missouri is met with resolve on the part of its residents, those in metro Atlanta and in so many other cities all over our nation.”


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