WASHINGTON – Barack Obama spoke out on Thursday against the policies of his successor as president of the United States, Donald Trump, during a eulogy for congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.
Without ever mentioning Trump by name, the country’s first African-American president accused the current occupant of the White House “of attacking our voting rights with surgical precision.”
Lewis, who died last week at the age of 80, “knew from his own life that progress is fragile, that we have to be vigilant against the darker currents of this country’s history,” Obama said during the service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor.
Obama went on to suggest parallels between the severe head injury police inflicted on Lewis in 1965 during a voting rights march in Selma, Alabama, and the recent death at police hands of George Floyd, as well as the tactics used by cops against the protests provoked by the killing of the unarmed Black man.
“Today we witness with our own eyes, police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans,” Obama said, referring to the manner of Floyd’s death.
“We can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators,” the former president added in a clear allusion to Trump’s deployment of heavily armed Department of Homeland Security personnel to cities led by Democratic mayors.
“Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws,” Obama said hours after Trump mused on Twitter about postponing the Nov. 3 election because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current Republican administration, Obama said, is “even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
Two other former presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, also spoke during the ceremony to honor Lewis.
Bush, a Republican, said that while he and the Democratic lawmaker didn’t always see eye-to-eye, they were able to hold “differing views on how to protect our union while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is at heart a good and noble one.”
“We live in a better and nobler country today because of John Lewis and his abiding faith in the power of God, the power of democracy and in the power of love to lift us all to a higher ground,” Bush said.
Lewis boycotted Trump’s January 2017 inauguration and the president skipped the funeral of his old adversary, though Vice President Mike Pence paid his respects earlier this week when the congressman’s coffin was lying in state at the Capitol.