Martin Bashir | March 04, 2013
>> that, of course, was congressman john lewis , who 48 years ago sunday was beaten, tear gassed and trampled by horses as he and other civil rights leaders tried to march across the edmund pettus bridge . we are delighted to say that the congressman joins us now. good afternoon, sir.
>> good afternoon.
>> we played a clip just now of you and the head of the montgomery , alabama, chief of police . can i ask you, how moved were you when he gave you his badge and apologized for the police department 's failure to protect you during a similar incident just four years earlier?
>> well, i was deeply moved and touched and very pleased that something like this would take place. it took place at the first baptist church in downtown montgomery that had been postered by the reverend ralph abernathy , a colleague of dr. king, a church that was bombed during the time of the montgomery bus boycott . it's the same church i met martin luther king , jr. in 1958 when i was 18 years old.
>> i was reminded of dr. martin luther king 's words in one of his sermons where he said forgiveness is not an occasional act. it is a constant attitude. but nevertheless, that as an act by the chief of police must have been profound for you.
>> it was very, very moving, and the only way i could respond was by saying thank you. i thought he was giving me a badge that he needed to wear, and i said to him, i said i'm not worthy to accept your badge. do you have another one? and i have been arrested in jail many times, especially during the '60s, about 40 times, and never a police officer had offered to apologize. and i was crying tears of gratitude, and i guess that we had come to this point, and even when i think about it today for a young police officer , a young white police officer , the chief in montgomery , alabama, who was not even born 52 years ago when this all took place, to give me his badge, and he took it off of his lapel, and i brought it with me. i have it. i have been keeping it in my pocket all day today.
>> well, maybe you can show us in a moment. there's been much discussion about the south's attitudes toward minorities then and now. how would you say things have improved, have changed, and what work still needs to be done?
>> well, what we saw back in 1961 and even before, the signs that said white men, colored men, white women , colored women, white waiting, colored waiting. that's what the freedom ride was all about in 1961 . those signs are gone. and in montgomery , in selma people can register and vote because during another period in the heart of the south it was very hard and very difficult for people to register and vote. but there are still problems. there are many, many problems. too many people of color , too many poor people have been left out and left behind . we still have a lot of work to do. we're not there yet. we still must remove the scars and sting of racism and create what i like to call one community, one family, the american community, the american family , the american house. my position is we all live in the same house, and as dr. king said on one occasion, we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish as fools. that's why i go back to selma and montgomery and birmingham every year and try to take some of my colleagues with me. i wish there was some way we could get members of congress and some of us are trying to do it to follow the spirit of the movement.
>> yeah. your march sunday takes place as the supreme court discusses the voting rights act of 1965 which was passed in the wake of the brutality of that day 48 years ago, as you know. what would it mean to you if they knocked back section 5 which forces an all electoral changes in affected states and areas to be subjected to a review process? what would it mean if the supreme court took that decision?
>> if the supreme court of the united states of america declared that section 5, which is the heart and soul of the voting rights aker act, declared it unconstitutional, it would be shocking, unreal, unbelievable. i'd take it very personal. but it would be a major setback for the people of america and for our democratic process . it is the heart, it is the soul of the voting rights act . you know, martin, a gave a little blood on that bridge and others gave a little blood, and i think our blood cries out that the rights of people to participate in a democratic process must be protected, and we're not just talking about african-american, but latinos, asian american , native american , white american , all of our efforts must be protected. it's embodied in the 15th amendment , the 14th amendment of the constitution .
>> is it your contention, sir, that the last election proved that there is an absolute necessity for the voting rights act and in particular section 5?
>> i think the election of '12 dramatized more than anything else in recent years the need for section 5 of the voting rights act . if we don't have it in years to come, we will take unbelievable steps back to the dark past. we cannot go back.
>> congressman --
>> we made too much progress.
>> i wonder as we draw this to a close you could show our viewers that police officer 's badge, if you have it. there it is.
>> this is the badge.
>> that 's wonderful . that's a token of reconciliation and forgiveness.
>> that's what the movement was all about. to be reconciled. to be able to forgive and move on.
>> congressman john lewis , sir, thank you for giving us your time today.