ST. LOUIS — Hundreds gathered on a Central West End church parking lot Saturday evening to call for expanding voter rights and to honor the legacy of U.S. Rep. John Lewis on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Saturday’s “Good Trouble Vigil” in St. Louis, named after the civil rights icon’s well-known exhortation to “get in good trouble,” was among those happening across the country and Missouri, where similar events were planned in Jefferson City, Kansas City and Springfield.
Lewis was 80 when he died of pancreatic cancer. The Democrat from Georgia was best known for leading protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Alabama state troopers beat Lewis and others who were marching for voting rights.
The St. Louis vigil outside the First Unitarian Church at 5007 Waterman Boulevard was organized by members of more than a dozen faith-based organizations and voting rights groups.
Speakers decried efforts in Republican-led states to limit voting rights following former President Donald Trump’s electoral loss and his repeated false claims of voter fraud. Activists urged Congress to pass a voter rights bill named after Lewis. They called on one another to become more engaged in the fight against bills that critics believe disproportionately affect poor and minority voters.
“We’re calling on people of faith to help us, to manifest the spirit of John Lewis and get in the way of filibusters and spiritual wickedness in high places,” said the Rev. Cassandra Gould of Missouri Faith Voices. “All of God’s children must get together so that we can get in good trouble. ... Help us get in the way of all these problems that are plaguing us for too long.”
The Rev. Linden Bowie, president of the Missionary Baptist State Convention of Missouri, said Lewis lived his life “in an effort to see that which is right, done” who refused to let the country ignore its oppressive beginnings.
“And America began to call him a troublemaker,” Bowie said. “I stand here today grateful for the life of John Lewis, a man and a model for us to emulate today. John Lewis gave his living for this cause and we should honor his life and not stop until grace is extended to every form.”
Joining Saturday’s event was Margaret Haun, 85, of Webster Groves, who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for voting rights in 1965.
“I marched for a voting rights bill and here we are years later, and we don’t have voting rights,” Haun said. “It’s just what’s happening now with so many people not able to vote, or there’s legislation in so many states about that. It’s horrible. Everybody deserves a right to vote.”
The vigil ended with a march to Maryland Plaza in the Central West End where people held signs and danced together to live music from the Red and Black Brass Band.