Long before he was a congressman representing Georgia, John Lewis was arrested … for going to the bathroom.
Well, the wrong bathroom.
In 2016, Lewis tweeted his vintage mug shot with the caption, “I was arrested in the Jackson, MS bus station for using a ‘whites-only’ restroom,” and the hashtag #GoodTrouble.
Nearly six decades later, Lewis is still getting into “good trouble.” And he wants the rest of us to do the same.
In a fiery speech on June 20, the congressman blasted President Donald Trump’s extreme and unpopular family separation policy.
“I saw those signs that said, ‘white men,’ ‘colored men,'” Lewis recalled of his childhood growing up in the rural south. “But I was inspired by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., and I got in the way. I got in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Just because it was the law didn’t make it right.
“This has gone on too long, and it must stop, and it must stop now — not tomorrow, but now!” Lewis said, segueing from the civil rights era of the 1960s to our current humanitarian crisis.
“Just tell me whatever you want me to do,” Lewis continued, with a nod to Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois standing nearby. “I will go to the borders. I’d get arrested again.”
“You know, if necessary, I’m prepared to go to jail,” Lewis said, embracing a child with his right arm. “Thank you, brother.”
What’s right is not always lawful, and the law is not always right. Many of humanity’s darkest moments — slavery, the Holocaust, Japanese-American interment camps, and more — were protected by the rule of law.
It’s up to us to change what’s acceptable.
Shortly after the Democrats’ press conference, Trump signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy his administration first enforced.
But the story is far from over.
Trump’s order did nothing to clarify how the thousands of separated migrant children will be reunited with their parents, and many advocates argue the reversal still leaves families in the deplorable conditions we decided were too harsh for children.
The good news is that there are many ways to keep fighting for these children and their families — and maybe even get into some good trouble along the way.
You can support legal aid groups specialized in immigration law doing on-the-ground work protecting migrants this very moment. Buy apparel that benefits youth-led immigrant advocacy work. Keep sharing stories with loved ones as this story develops in the weeks and months ahead. Volunteer and get involved however you can.
As Lewis concluded his speech outside the Capitol: “Now is the time to do what is right, what is fair, and what is just.”
Let’s get into good trouble together.