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Body of civil rights icon John Lewis crosses Selma bridge

SELMA, Ala. — The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, for the final time Sunday as remembrances continue for the civil rights icon.

The bridge became a landmark in the fight for racial justice when Lewis and other civil rights marchers were beaten there 55 years ago on “Bloody Sunday,” a key event that helped galvanize support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis returned to Selma each March in commemoration.

Sunday found him crossing alone — instead of arm-in-arm with civil rights and political leaders — after his coffin was loaded atop a horse-drawn wagon that retraced the route through Selma from Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the 1965 march began.

As the black wagon pulled by a team of dark-colored horses approached the bridge, members of the crowd shouted “Thank you, John Lewis!” and “Good trouble!” the phrase Lewis used to describe his tangles with white authorities during the civil rights movement.

Some crowd members sang the gospel song “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Jesus.” Later, some onlookers sang the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” and other gospel tunes.

Lewis died July 17 at 80, months after he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Lewis served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death.

The wagon rolled over a carpet of rose petals, pausing atop the bridge over the Alabama River in the summer heat so family members could walk behind it. On the south side of the bridge, where Lewis was beaten by Alabama state troopers in 1965, family members placed red roses that the carriage rolled over, marking the spot where Lewis spilled his blood and suffered a head injury.

As a military honor guard lifted Lewis’ casket from the horse-drawn wagon into an automobile hearse, Alabama state troopers, including some African American ones, saluted Lewis.

Franz and Ellen Hill drove more that four hours from Monroe, Louisiana, to watch the procession.

Franz Hill, 60, said he remembers, as an African American child, watching news footage of Lewis and other civil rights marchers being beaten by law enforcement officers.

“I had to come back and see John Lewis cross the bridge for the last time,” said Hill. “It’s funny to see the state troopers here to honor and respect him rather than beat the crap out of him.”

Lewis’ body was then taken to the Alabama Capitol in the afternoon to lie in repose, retracing the route marchers took in the days after Bloody Sunday to demand justice from Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

Bertha Surles and Edna Goldsmith stood along the highway between Selma and Montgomery to pay their final respects. Both carried signs, reading “Thank you.”

“He fought for rights up unto his death,” said Surles, 70.

She was in high school on Bloody Sunday and remembered watching the news footage of Lewis being beaten with horror.

“They didn’t give up and something good came from it. Still need some improvement, but something good came from it.”

“John was willing to sacrifice life so we can have the freedom to vote,” said Edna Goldsmith, who was wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. “We want to see him off with a bang.”

Lewis left his family’s farm in Pike County, Alabama, in the 1950s to begin the fight against segregation and racial oppression. He received a hero’s welcome on his final stop in his home state.

After tracing the route of the completed Selma to Montgomery march, an honor guard carried Lewis’ flag-draped casket into the Alabama Capitol, where he will lie in repose. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey placed a wreath of flowers shaped like the Alabama flag by the casket. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell placed a wreath shaped like the American flag.

His family members, many wearing shirts with the phrase “Good Trouble,” were led first into the Capitol before the public viewing later in the afternoon. A line of people, some carrying umbrellas for shade, waited under the brutal midday Alabama sun to go inside and pay their respects.

A series of events began Saturday in Lewis’ hometown of Troy, Alabama, to pay tribute the late congressman and his legacy. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol next week before his private funeral Thursday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once led.


Business
AP
WH pushes narrow virus aid; Pelosi blasts GOP delay

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday assailed Republican “disarray” over a new pandemic relief package as the White House suggested a narrower effort might be necessary, at least for now.

The California Democrat panned the Trump administration’s desire to trim an expiring temporary federal unemployment benefit from $600 weekly to about 70% of pre-pandemic wages. “The reason we had $600 was its simplicity,” she said from the Capitol.

The administration’s chief negotiators — White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — spent a few hours at the Capitol later Sunday to put what Meadows described as “final touches” on a $1 trillion relief bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring forward Monday afternoon.

“We’re done,” Mnuchin said as he and Meadows left Capitol Hill after meeting with GOP staff.

Meadows said as the White House was “looking for clarity” on a “handful” of remaining issues ahead of Monday. “We have an agreement in principle,” he said.

Both Mnuchin and Meadows said earlier Sunday that narrower legislation might need to be passed first to ensure that enhanced unemployment benefits don’t run out for millions of Americans. They cited unemployment benefits, money to help schools reopen, tax credits to keep people from losing their jobs, and lawsuit protections for schools and businesses as priorities.

Pelosi has said she opposes approving a relief package in piecemeal fashion.

“We can move very quickly with the Democrats on these issues,” Mnuchin said.

Separately, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units, due to expire at the end of the month, will be extended. “We will lengthen it,” he said, without specifying for how long.

Republicans have argued that federal jobless benefits should be trimmed because the combination of state and federal unemployment assistance left many people better off financially than they were before the pandemic and therefore disinclined to return to their jobs.

Many Democrats contend that a lot of people don’t feel safe going back to work when the coronavirus is surging again around the country.

A former Republican congressman from North Carolina, Meadows said he is working with Mnuchin and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to address complaints that outdated state computer systems will make it difficult for the jobless to get their benefits in a timely fashion if the formula is changed.

“It’s our goal to make sure that it’s not antiquated computers that keep people from getting their benefits,” Meadows said.

Pelosi criticized the hold-up on the GOP side. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief package a couple of months ago, with the aim of jump-starting negotiations. Republicans abruptly halted rollout of their bill last week amid differences between senators and the White House.

“They’re in disarray and that delay is causing suffering for America’s families,” Pelosi said.

She declined to say whether she could accept 70% of wages in place of the now-expired $600 weekly benefit.

“Why don’t we just keep it simple?” she asked, referring to a flat dollar amount.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he doesn’t support the GOP legislation as proposed. He argued for lifting taxes and regulations he says are “hammering” small businesses. Cruz also argued for a payroll tax cut, which will not be in the bill. President Donald Trump had insisted on a temporary trim of payroll taxes, but both parties resisted the idea.

Cruz alleged that Pelosi isn’t working to solve either the virus crisis or the economic one.

“Her objectives are shoveling cash at the problem and shutting America down,” he said. “It’s just shoveling money to her friends and not actually solving the problem.”

The White House and Senate Republicans were racing to regroup after plans to introduce a $1 trillion virus rescue bill collapsed Thursday during GOP infighting over its size, scope and details.

It was expected to bring $105 billion to help schools reopen, new money for virus testing and benefits for businesses, including a fresh round of loans, tax breaks and a sweeping liability shield from COVID-19-related lawsuits.

The expiration of the $600 weekly jobless benefits boost had been propelling the Republicans to act. Democrats already approved their {a href=”:%20https:/apnews.com/55887a1d2b734020c8dae29004f087d6” target=”—blank”}sweeping $3 trillion plan{/a} from Pelosi two months ago. But with millions of Americans about to be suddenly cut off from the aid, they were bracing to prevent social and economic fallout.

The White House floated plans to cut the additional aid back to {a href=”https://apnews.com/4965723ba65a47582f384c185680a29c” target=”—blank”}$100 a week{/a}, while Senate Republicans preferred $200, with general GOP agreement about phasing out the flat boost in favor of one that ensures no more than 70% of an employee’s previous pay.

Apart from jobless benefits, Mnuchin said Saturday that new $1,200 direct payments would be based on the same formula from the earlier aid bill. Then, people making $75,000 or less received the full amount and those making more than $75,000 received less, depending on their income. People earning above $100,000 did not qualify for the payment.

The jobless benefit officially expires July 31, but due to the way states process unemployment payments, the cutoff was effectively Saturday.

———

Meadows spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” Mnuchin was on “Fox News Sunday,” Pelosi and Cruz appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and Kudlow was interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

———

Superville reported from Bridgewater, New Jersey. Associated Press writer Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.


Front-page
United Way study shows poverty concerns before pandemic

About one-third of area residents were struggling to make ends meet even before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study released today by the United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley.

The “ALICE Report” — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employment — shows that 13% of Eau Claire County households live in poverty, by federal standards, and another 23% can be categorized as “ALICE,” meaning they earn above poverty levels but still struggle with basics needs like child care, housing and food costs, the report states.

Combined, that puts 35% of Eau Claire County residents, or about 14,000 total homes, in that category.

Chippewa County similarly has 32% of its residents meeting the ALICE threshold, while Dunn County came in at 33% of all residents. In western Wisconsin, Clark County came in at the highest poverty level, at 42%, just ahead of Jackson County, which is at 41%, the report states.

“Even before COVID-19, our ALICE neighbors were working hard to provide for their families,” said United Way of Wisconsin executive director Charlene Mouille. “The current crisis is only highlighting that despite this hard work, constant uncertainty and the struggle of financial hardship are the reality faced by more than one in three Wisconsin households.”

The highest poverty level in the state was in Menominee County, at 55%, the report states. Statewide, about 812,000 households met the ALICE criteria, and the study was compiled before the pandemic began earlier this year.

This is the third ALICE Report compiled by the United Way, with the previous ones released in 2016 and 2018. The report shows that 59% of Wisconsin jobs pay less than $20 an hour. About 66% of Black households and 48% of Hispanic households meet the ALICE threshold, compared to about 32 percent of white households.

Mouille said United Way is committed to help those families who fall into the ALICE criteria.

“We’re committed to changing the way we view our neighbors experiencing financial distress,” Mouille said in a press release. “By challenging commonly held beliefs around poverty and economic hardship, we can begin to understand the factors holding so many Wisconsinites back and what we need to do as communities to build a better future.”