Late US civil rights icon lies in state at Capitol

The late US Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis laid in state at the Capitol here which is one of the highest honours an American citizen can receive.

Lewis, who died last week at the age of 80 after a year-long battle with advanced-stage pancreatic cancer, has become the first African-American lawmaker in the nation’s history to lie in state beneath the Capitol Rotunda, reports Xinhua news agency.

In keeping with COVID-19 related safeguards, Lewis will lie at the top of the steps of the Capitol’s east front so the public can pay their respects safely outside with social distancing guidelines and mask requirements.

In a ceremony on Monday, lawmakers paid tributes to Lewis, who had fought for voting rights throughout his 33 years in Congress.

Vice President Mike Pence and Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, were among those expected to pay their respects at the Capitol on Monday.

But President Donald Trump told reporters that he wouldn’t be stopping by the Capitol.

Lewis lay in state Sunday in Montgomery, Alabama, to give the people of his home state a final chance to pay their last respects, according to the Voice of America news.

After lying in state in Washington on Monday and Tuesday, Lewis will lie in state in the Georgia state Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, before his Thursday funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Martin Luther King Jr. preached.

He will be laid to rest in Atlanta’s South View Cemetery.

Born into a family of sharecroppers in 1940, Lewis was hailed for his leadership in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

A founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis led protests against racial injustice in an era in which apartheid was still rampant in the American South.

He was the youngest and longest surviving speaker at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom movement, which culminated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.