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(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) released the following statement Monday on Congressman John Lewis’ visit to Trenton to discuss Gov. Christie’s recent civil rights comments:

“Today is an important day in New Jersey.
“Today we welcome a genuine American hero – one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced.
“Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building a better America.
“And he comes to our capital city at a time when civil rights and one of the great events in human history – the triumph of the American ideal of liberty and equality for all over deep-rooted and brutal segregation – has been flipped into an unfathomable sound bite by our governor.
“Gov. Christie wants to take a pass on civil rights by sending it to referendum, arguing this is OK because everything would have turned out just fine had Freedom Fighters in the South simply demurred to voters rather then fighting in the streets for their inalienable rights.
“Congressman Lewis knows the governor’s insensitive sentiment lacks reality.
“John Lewis was there when black citizens were denied the right to even register to vote and were horribly beaten – even killed – if they tried.
“John Lewis was living it when a judge issued an injunction forbidding any gathering of three or more people under the sponsorship of civil rights organizations or leaders.
“And John Lewis was at the lead when on March 7, 1965 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma to the Edmund Pettus Bridge and found an army of Alabama state troopers waiting for them with nightsticks, tear gas and horses in what would become Bloody Sunday, a brutal day that forever changed the course of the Civil Rights Movement and American history.
“Congressman Lewis is a living example of what it means to stand up and fight for what’s right.
“It took an enormous amount of bravery by Congressman Lewis and many others – including the elected officials of that time – to stand up for what was right and protect equal rights.
“And each and every one of us here in New Jersey – especially those put in position to protect civil rights – must follow their courageous example as we consider our votes, remarks and actions in the coming weeks.
“Thank you Congressman Lewis, for all that you’ve done and continue to do for this nation and for joining us at this crucial moment.”