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Joe and Jill Biden pay their respects to Rep John Lewis at the Capitol

Vice President Mike Pence and presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden paid their respects to Rep. John Lewis at the Capitol in Washington DC on Monday as the famous civil rights activist became the first Black lawmaker to lie in state beneath the Rotunda. 

Lewis died on July 17, aged 80 – the last surviving member of the Big Six, who together organized the 1963 March on Washington.

He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders who rode buses across the South in 1961 to challenge segregation in public transportation. 

The riders were attacked and beaten, and one of their buses was firebombed. But the rides changed the way people traveled, and set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

From Monday, Lewis will lie in state in the Capitol – the first black politician to receive one of the highest of American honors.

Donald Trump, asked on Monday if he would be attending, replied: ‘I won’t be going. No.’ 

A member of the honor guard fainted in the 96 degree heat on Monday afternoon while waiting for the hearse outside the Capitol. The guard was revived at the scene but was taken for medical treatment, meaning the coffin had one fewer pallbearers than intended. 

Lewis’s body will lie beneath the dome of the Rotunda, before the commemorations are moved outside, for public safety.

A third wreath from the Executive Branch was added to the Rotuda as a sign of respect to Lewis.

Last year Elijah Cummings, another civil rights advocate, became the first black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol, though he was honored in Statuary Hall, not in the Rotunda, where presidents and other statesmen have lain. 

The site is reserved for the nation’s most revered figures, most recently including President George Bush and Senator John McCain.   

Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer, lay in honor there in 2005, receiving the highest honor afforded to a private citizen. 

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, around 7:30pm arrived to the East Front Steps of the Capitol to recognize the long-lasting legacy Lewis left behind. 

They were joined by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, but not President Trump. 

At 5:30pm, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi escorted Joe and Jill Biden to the Rotunda to honor the late congressman.

The Bides approached the catafalque, where they bowed their heads in tribute and paced around the casket.   

During the 10 minutes that the Bidens stayed in the Rotunda, Biden reached out to touch the American flag-covered casket before both he and Jill made the sign of the cross. 

Biden briefly spoke to Pelosi throughout his visit and touched Lewis’ casket one more time before leaving the Capitol.  

Biden and Lewis became friends over their two decades on Capitol Hill together and Biden´s two terms as vice president to Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president who awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. 

Lewis endorsed Biden and actively supported the former vice president during the final weeks of his life.

‘It is my belief that we need Joe Biden now more than ever before,’ said Lewis in April. ‘We need his voice. We need his leadership now more than ever before.

‘We need someone who is going to get our country on the right side of history and help save our planet.’ 

The Bidens were followed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Mark Esper some minutes later. They circled the casket and bowed their heads in silent tribute.

Each military leader saluted the Lewis’ casket one-by-one before exiting the Rotunda.

Former members of Congress and their spouses, as well as staff members also arrived to the Rotunda. 

Board members from the Faith & Politics Institute, of which Lewis was once the board’s co-chair, arrived around 6pm to lay their hands on the casket and pray.

The Faith & Politics Institute helped organize the annual congressional trips to Selma and Montgomery, two key cities in the Civil Rights Movement. 

Additionally, Congressowoman Karen Bass of California visited the Rotunda twice on Monday and made her final viewing just after 6pm.

Members of the public can pay their respects in Washington DC from 6pm on Monday until 10pm on Tuesday.

On Wednesday the commemorations move to Atlanta, where Lewis lived. He served as a representative for the city for 17 consecutive terms, from 1986.

He will be brought to the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Ceremonies will conclude on Thursday, with a private funeral at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – a church with strong ties to the civil rights movement.

The commemorations began in Alabama on Saturday, in the town of Troy where he was born – the third of 10 children born to sharecroppers.  

At a service on Saturday in an arena at Troy University in Alabama, the state of his birth, his surviving siblings and others paid tribute.

His sister, Ethel Mae Tyner, recalled the days long ago when family members worked together in the cotton fields near Troy and storm clouds would pass over. Young John Lewis was fearful of storms but would not budge. 

‘He would start singing – and preaching. He always was a fighter,’ she said. 

His brother, Samuel Lewis, said that Lewis’s famous idea of ‘good trouble’ began young.

‘I remember the day that John left home,’ he said. 

‘Mother told him not to get in trouble, not to get in the way… but we all know that John got in trouble, got in the way but it was good trouble.

‘And the troubles that he got himself into would change the world.’

Seven-year-old Jaxson Lewis Brewster, John Lewis’ young great-nephew, said: ‘John Lewis was my uncle and my hero, and it is up to us to keep his legacy alive.’

While attending segregated schools in Alabama, Lewis was inspired by the peaceful protests of rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and he eventually rose to join their ranks.  

After the ceremony Saturday in Troy, commemorations moved to Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama for a private remembrance followed by a public viewing.

Monday’s tributes inside the Capitol will be invitation-only, and held beneath the Rotunda. 

The Rev. Grainger Browning Jr. of Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Maryland, will give the invocation, followed by remarks from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.

There will be a presentation of wreaths by Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader; Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader; Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader; and Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina.

The vocal artist Wintley Phipps will sing the Christian hymns Amazing Grace and It Is Well.

Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the majority whip, will give the benediction. 

Trump is not expected to attend. 

After the ceremony, from 6pm on Monday members of the public will be able to line up in a socially distanced way to see him lying in state from the plaza below. 

Notably absent from the ceremonies was Trump, who publicly jousted with Lewis. 

Lewis once called Trump an an illegitimate president and chided him for stoking racial discord. Trump countered by calling Lewis’s Atlanta congressional district ‘crime-infested.’

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Reps. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Karen Bass of California, were seen sporting ‘Good Trouble’ face masks, a nod to one of Lewis’s favorite pieces of advice.

‘Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic,’ Lewis tweeted in 2018. 

‘Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.’

Just ahead of the ceremonies Monday, the House passed a bill to establish a new federal commission to study conditions that affect black men and boys.

At that moment, the motorcade was passing along the newly-named Black Lives Matter Plaza. 

A bystander was heard playing the hymn Amazing Grace on the harmonica. 

While at Black Lives Matter Plaza, members of Lewis’s family were presented with commemorative signs.

The street was renamed by Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, at the beginning of June.

Bowser renamed the street in front of the White House ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza’ and had the slogan painted on the asphalt in massive yellow letters.

City officials said the actions were meant to honor demonstrators who are urging changes in law enforcement practices after the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Trump sparked anger by clearing demonstrators with tear gas and pellets to make way for him to stage a photo op in front of the White House. 

‘There was a dispute this week about whose street it is, and Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear whose street it is and honor the peaceful demonstrators who assembled,’ said John Falcicchio, the mayor’s chief of staff.

As the motorcade drew up the the Capitol, one member of the military honor guard fainted in the head.

The man collapsed, and then was swiftly taken from the scene before the hearse arrived.

There was one man missing as the coffin was carried up the steps and in to the Capitol building. 

Inside the Capitol Rotunda, members of the House and Senate and other invited guests sat six feet apart in concentric circles. 

The honor guard carried Lewis’ casket to the center of the rotunda and, with bowed heads, placed it on the catafalque constructed in 1865 to support Abraham Lincoln’s casket. 

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed Lewis as ‘a titan of the civil rights movement and then the conscience of the United States Congress.’

She continued:  ‘John was revered and loved on both side of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol. 

‘We knew that he always worked on the side of the angels. And now we know that he is with them.’

Referring to Lewis’ civil rights fight, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, ‘John Lewis lived and worked with urgency because the task was urgent.’ 

He added: ‘History only bent toward what’s right because people like John paid the price,’ referencing Martin Luther King’s famous saying.

When the ceremony ended, the House and Senate sergeants at arms coordinated a receiving line in which the VIP crowd could pay their final respects to Lewis, beginning with his son – John-Miles Lewis – standing before his father’s coffin. 

The rest of the Lewis family, accompanied by his longtime chief of staff, Michael Collins, then circled the casket and said goodbye. 

Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, who represents South Carolina, said the service was incredibly moving. 

‘It was a beautiful ceremony,’ he told CNN. 

‘Just a life well lived. You know, the quintessential Matthew 25:21 – “Well done my good and faithful servant.” 

‘He sacrificed so much for people that he had never met to make this country strive towards a more perfect Union. And it’s a hero’s farewell and earned, deserved in every way.’ 

Scott said that Lewis had reached out to him when he first entered politics. 

‘He was the first person – one of the first individuals – to invite me to the office and share with me his experience. And that really helped me to understand what I was walking into and, frankly what I would be forced in the future. 

‘As an African American Republican, I was probably going to have some hard times. 

‘And he reminded me before I even knew I needed to know it, to never grow bitter. No matter what happens, no matter the circumstances, no matter the challenges, never grow bitter.’ 

‘And always believe that love will come to favor.’ 

After Lewis’ family exited the Rotunda, the next group led up to the catafalque to pay their respects consisted of members of the U.S. Senate. They stood quietly in a circle. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the sign of the cross as she stood with members of the Congressional Black Caucus around Lewis’ casket. 

Most of them leaned in to touch the flag that drapes the caskets. A few saluted.

After all the members of Congress who were guests at the ceremony paid their respects, a group of staff members, including several people who worked for Lewis, surrounded the casket.  

They stood around the casket for a prolonged period of time, wiping tears and consoling one another. One woman sobbed as she walked out of the rotunda.

After the invited guests had all exited, members of the House were escorted in small groups to the Rotunda. 

When the room was nearly empty, Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican representing Utah, walked alone to the casket. He held his hand over his heart and bowed his head. 

He then walked in a circle around the catafalque, his eyes on the casket the entire time. 

He stopped and bowed his head again before exiting the Rotunda.  

President Donald Trump said Monday he would not visit the body of John Lewis, who is lying in state in the Dome of the Capitol, the first African American to be given that honor since Rosa Parks.

‘I won’t be going. No,’ President Trump told reporters at the White House before he left for North Carolina.

Trump left Washington D.C. as Lewis’ body arrived at the U.S. Capitol building, where lawmakers honored his legacy as a member of Congress and Civil Rights icon.

Vice President Mike Pence, who served in the House of Representatives with Lewis, is scheduled to pay his respects at the Capitol on Monday night, along with second lady Karen Pence.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Jill Biden will also be at the Capitol on Monday to honor Lewis. 

A Democratic member of Congress from Atlanta since 1987, Lewis died on July 17 of pancreatic cancer at age 80.

His death came amid renewed racial tensions in the United States, which resulted in national protests after George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, was killed after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

President Trump has been accused of stroking the fires, declaring himself the ‘law and order president’ and denouncing a ‘culture war’ in America. 

He called on governors to send in troops against protesters. Lewis criticized the president on the matter.

‘You cannot stop the call of history,’ he said shortly before his death. ‘You may use troopers, you may use fire hoses and water, but it cannot be stopped. There cannot be any turning back. We’ve come too far, made too much progress, to stop now or to go back. The world is seeing what is happening, and we are ready to continue to move forward.’ 

Last month, in his last public appearance, Lewis joined Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at a street by the White House that had been painted with a yellow mural reading ‘Black Lives Matter.’

Lewis was honored with a ceremony in Capitol rotunda on Monday afternoon by lawmakers from both political parties. His colleagues on Capitol Hill referred to him as the ‘conscience of Congress.’ 

A public viewing of his body will begin Monday night. But due to coronavirus restrictions, Lewis’ casket will be placed atop the stairs at the East Front of the Capitol with the public walking by outside and social distancing strictly enforced.

Last year Elijah Cummings, another civil rights advocate, became the first black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol, though he was honored in Statuary Hall, not in the Rotunda, where presidents and other statesmen have lain. 

Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer, lay in honor there in 2005, receiving the highest honor afforded to a private citizen. 

Trump paid tribute to Lewis last Saturday, after he returned from a spot of golf with Senator Lindsey Graham earlier in the day. 

‘Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family,’ Trump tweeted. 

Otherwise he has said little publicly about Lewis, who was honored by political leaders in both parties for his life’s work. 

Lewis did not attend Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 and said the president’s election was not legitimate. 

‘I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,’ Lewis told NBC News at the time. ‘I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.’ 

Trump responded via Twitter, writing in January 2017: ‘Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad.’ 

Flags at the White House, the Capitol, public buildings, and military bases were all lowered to half-staff across the country Saturday in honor of the pioneer of the civil rights movement turned Congressman. 

Lewis was the last surviving member of the Big Six, who together organized the 1963 March on Washington.

He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders who rode buses across the South in 1961 to challenge segregation in public transportation. 

The riders were attacked and beaten, and one of their buses was firebombed. But the rides changed the way people traveled, and set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

He also was beaten in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, as he tried to lead people across Edmund Pettis Bridge on a walk to Montgomery, – a day that became known as Bloody Sunday.

Lewis’ remains were carried across the bridge on a horse-drawn casket on Sunday. His funeral will take place on Thursday in Georgia.  

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