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On the day John Lewis is laid to rest, Rep. Hayes reads a letter written by the late civil rights icon in 2007


(WTNH) — On the day civil rights icon Representative John Lewis was laid to rest in a service at the church once led by Martin Luther King Jr, the words of Lewis himself are as fitting a tribute as any other speaker could pay to the “Conscience of the Congress.”

Back in 2007, Rep. Lewis wrote a letter to be read to a group at an immigration march in New Haven. Representative Jahana Hayes was kind enough to read those words for News 8. You can watch Rep. Hayes’ reading of that letter in the video above, and the text of the letter lives below.

We knew them well by that knock on the door in the middle of the night. Men who hid their faces beneath white hoods. They came with threats and force. They broke families apart. Men and women were led away, some never to return. Children cried. They would never forget. I will never forget.

Today in New Haven, and elsewhere in this great country, that knock has returned. 

Now it comes at any time of day or night. It comes from men who hide their identities behind anonymous uniforms. They trample on our Constitution. They trample on the hearth and home of hard-working men and women. They take fathers and mothers away from children. They spirit them away to hidden places. Some will not return.

Under the cover of law, the law is broken. Under the claim of homeland security, the security of homes is violated. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, peaceful families are terrorized. 

Today these men without names have eyes only for people of a certain color. Tomorrow, in their eyes, we will all be the same color. 

We must not abide this in America. I will not abide this in America. 

New Haven, you are a shining light of which every American should be proud. A light shining brighter today than even the torch of the Statue of Liberty. 

I urge you to resist, as we resisted those who beat down our doors, who raided our communities, who sundered our lives and the lives of our children.

Let there be no strangers among you. Let every one of you—young and old, men and women, firefighters and police officers, citizen and non-citizen alike—carry the identity card of the New Haven family.

Give sanctuary to the oppressed. Place your bodies as bulwarks between injustice and the innocent. Avert not your eyes but be steadfast and witness. Speak truth to those who abuse their power. Draw a line. They shall not pass.

You, we, our America—will prevail.

Letter from the late Rep. John Lewis

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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