Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who was beaten while marching for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” in 1965, compared National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden to Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
In an interview with the UK Guardian that was published on Wednesday, Lewis said Snowden was following in the footsteps of others who engaged in non-violent civil disobedience.
“In keeping with the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, in keeping with the teaching of Henry David Thoreau and people like Gandhi and others, if you believe something that is not right, something is unjust, and you are willing to defy customs, traditions, bad laws, then you have a conscience,” Lewis said. “You have a right to defy those laws and be willing to pay the price.”
Lewis noted that is what “we did” during the civil rights movement and mentioned he “got arrested 40 times during the sixties. Since I’ve been in Congress I’ve been arrested four times. Sometimes you have to act by the dictates of your conscience. You have to do it.”
Lewis also said the federal government similarly spied on and targeted Martin Luther King.
“We had that problem during the height of the civil rights movement,” Lewis said. “People spied on, and got information on Martin Luther King Junior, and tried to use it against him, on the movement, tried to plant people within different organizations–that probably led to the destruction of some of those groups.
As The Hill noted, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also likened Snowden to Thoreau and Martin Luther King in June.
“On deciding when you decide to become a civil disobedient–we’ve had famous ones in our career, but some of them only had to serve, like [Henry David] Thoreau only had to serve one day in jail, Martin Luther King served 30 days in jail,” Paul said then.