Former U.S. President Barack Obama attacked those who attack the right to vote with “surgical precision” and minorities, alluding to the attempts by his successor, Donald Trump, to discourage voting by mail in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Without even mentioning Trump’s name, Obama (2009-2017) gave a combative speech at the Atlanta, Georgia, funeral of African-American Congressman John Lewis, a historic civil rights leader who was arrested dozens of times for defending the right of the African-American community to go to the polls.
Obama praised Lewis and recalled that “he dedicated his time on Earth to fighting the same attacks on democracy that are being circulated right now.
“As we sit here,” he said, “there are people in power who are doing everything they can to suppress the vote by closing polling places, attacking minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our right to vote with surgical precision, including undermining the pre-election postal service, which will rely on absentee ballots to keep people from getting sick.
Those statements by the first African-American president in U.S. history made the audience stand up and applaud in anger.
His words come just hours after Trump suggested that the November 3 election should be delayed, something he cannot decide because it must have majority support in Congress, where the Democratic opposition controls one chamber, the House of Representatives.
In his speech, Obama said election day should be a holiday so that all Americans can go out and vote, and he criticized the closing of polling places in recent years, especially in poor areas and where a majority of African-American or Hispanic voters live.
He also lambasted the laws that some conservative states have passed since 2013 to force voters to show a photo ID, even though there is no national identity card in the US and citizens are not required to have such an ID.
Obama also referred to the U.S. Postal Service, whose reliability Trump has called into question and which is in a precarious economic situation, with some fearing that it will not be able to take on the workload of a postal vote in the November election.
CONDEMNS THE REPRESSION OF DEMONSTRATIONS
Again without mentioning his successor, Obama criticized federal agents who “used tear gas against peaceful protesters” and compared Trump’s America to the Jim Crow laws that institutionalized racial segregation in the country in the late 19th century.
While recalling Lewis, the former president urged Americans to heed the worst instincts imbued in their nation’s history.
“He (Lewis) knew from his own experience that progress is fragile, that we have to watch out for the darkest currents in our country’s history, in our own history. Where there are swirls of violence, hatred and despair, evil can rise again,” he warned.
Obama wore an insignion with Lewis’ face on his work jacket and delivered his speech in front of the congressman’s coffin, which was covered with a large American flag.
The funeral scene was the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he grew up and was the Reverend Martin Luther King.
THE ABSENCE OF TRUMP
In addition to Obama, former Presidents George Bush (2001-2009) and Bill Clinton (1993-2001) attended the funeral and shared their memories of Lewis, with whom they both worked in Washington.
“Today we live in a better and nobler country because of John Lewis” and his abiding faith “in the power of God, the power of democracy, and the power of love,” Bush said.
Trump did not attend the Atlanta funeral, nor did he show up for Lewis’ memorial service this week at the U.S. Congress, which was attended by Vice President Mike Pence.
Lewis and Trump had a relationship of enmity that was more than known: the legislator did not attend the inauguration of the current president in 2017 and criticized the president on numerous occasions for his immigration policy, as well as for his initiatives to suppress the vote.