John Lewis died in his honor in support of the renaming of Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of Bloody Sunday.

Following the death of Representative John Lewis on Friday, millions of people paid tribute to the decades of activism of the Georgia Congress, fighting for social justice and voting rights. Many pointed to Lewis’s iconic leadership in March of 1965, known as Bloody Sunday, leading to increased support for the renaming of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police were on a peaceful march in Lewis’s honor Was attacked

Edmund Pettus was a brigadier general in the Confederate army during the Civil War. He later joined the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and ascended the level of the Grand Dragon according to the Smithsonian. Petts also served in the US Senate from 1897 until his death on July 27, 1907.

A petition supporting the change of name led to thousands of signatures within a day of Lewis’s death. The petition was launched a month ago, and signed about 250,000 before Lewis’s death. As of Saturday evening, the petition had received more than 437,000 signatures.

Michael Starr Hapkins petitioned, writing, “It is a very old time to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge, after the civil rights representative, John Lewis.” “Edmund Pettus was a bitter racist, an honor worthy of him. As we wipe out the stain of this great stain of the country, we should also erase the names of men like Edmund Pettus.”

On March 7, 1965, Lewis led 600 people over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, demanding the right of black people to vote in a peaceful demonstration. At the foot of the bridge, the protesters were attacked by state troops, who released tear gas into the crowd and wounded people by hitting them with sticks in the night. Lewis, who was 25 at the time, found a fractured skull after being beaten by a police officer.

Democratic presidential candidates celebrate 55th anniversary of Selma's Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge across March
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) speaks to the crowd crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 1, 2020, in Selma, Alabama, to mark the 55th anniversary of Selma’s Bloody Sunday.

/ Getty Images

The violence was widely publicized by the police, and months later, President Lyndon b. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Lewis said in a tweet on the 55th anniversary of March this year, “We were beaten by horses, shed tears, and trampled by horses. I felt that I saw death. I thought I was going to die.” “

Paul McCartney tweeted support for the renaming of the bridge in Lewis’ honor, stating that the Congressman in Georgia was “a great leader who fought for civil rights in America with integrity and bravery.”

Composer Stivee Van Zandt echoed McCartney’s statement, “It must have happened while alive. Why we have anything in the name of the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is beyond me.”

Ava DuVernay, who directed the 2014 film “Selma” about the 1965 voting rights, tweeted last month supporting the petition.

She said the bridge should be named “for a hero” and “not for a murderer” and said the change is “due to the past”.

Senator Doug Jones of Alabama and Representative Terry Seawell have also expressed their support for the name change. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who is the object of the petition, has not commented on the petition.