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Atlanta lowers flags indefinitely to honour John Lewis

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The mayor of Atlanta said flags will be lowered to half-mast indefinitely to honour Representative John Lewis, a civil rights icon who represented the city for more than 30 years in Congress before his death this week.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made the announcement on Saturday, saying words cannot describe the loss of Lewis, who made a career of politics in the city after years as one of the nation’s premier civil rights leaders.

“The people of Atlanta often called upon Congressman Lewis for counsel, guidance, and assistance with getting into good trouble. No matter how busy his schedule, or important his Washington duties were, he answered,” she said.

The statement came amid an outpouring of tributes from local, national and international figures.

Bernice King, the daughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr with whom Lewis had worked, tweeted: “Farewell, sir. You did, indeed, fight the good fight and get into a lot of good trouble. You served God and humanity well. Thank you. Take your rest.”

Meanwhile, Arthur Blank, the owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, noted the city lost two civil rights icons in a single day: Lewis and the Reverend CT Vivian, an early and important adviser to Martin Luther King Jr.

Vivian died on Friday at the age of 95, and Lewis died hours later. He was 80.

“John risked his life to end legalised racial segregation and make America a better place for us and future generations. That’s the enduring legacy of one of the most courageous people I ever met,” said a statement by Blank.

Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp also praised the longtime Democratic congressman in a tweet.

“Congressman John Lewis was a Civil Rights hero, freedom fighter, devoted public servant, and beloved Georgian who changed our world in a profound way. The Kemp Family is praying for his loved ones as they honor his life & mourn his passing,” he wrote.

State law says the governor must schedule a special election to fill the current term of Lewis, who was first elected to represent Georgia’s majority Black 5th District in 1986, said Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. A vote would have to be held within 30 days.

Separately, Democrats can appoint a replacement candidate to fill Lewis’s slot on the November ballot since he already had won the nomination for another term, said Fuchs.

In an order, Kemp said flags on state buildings would be lowered through sunset on the day of Lewis’s burial, although no funeral arrangements had immediately been announced.

President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown at half-mast at the White House and all federal public buildings and grounds, including embassies abroad and all military posts and naval stations, throughout the day on Saturday.

Trump, who had once called Lewis “all talk” and “no action” after the Congressman questioned the legitimacy of his presidency, tweeted on Saturday he was “saddened to hear the news” of his passing.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former US vice president, said on Saturday: “John’s life reminds us that the most powerful symbol of what it means to be an American is what we do with the time we have to make real the promise of our nation – that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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