A moment of silence for John Lewis. Photo credit: Steve Finley and Adrian Umpierrez.

More than 300 runners dressed in white temporarily shut down Brooklyn Bridge Sunday as they crossed to remember 17-term Congressman John Lewis, who died July 17.

The protest run was organized by Fort Greene filmmaker and runner Coffey, who said it paid homage to the celebrated civil rights leader’s 1965 crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, as he agitated for the right of African Americans to vote. 

“[Lewis] made the country a little freer for Black Americans and people of color,” Coffey said. “It was a way to say, ‘Hey, I appreciate you, I will always appreciate what you did for all of us, and we will continue this thing, there’s no end.”

Coffey leads hundreds of runners across the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo credit: Steve Finley and Adrian Umpierrez.

Lewis was beaten by state troopers alongside fellow protesters and the date later became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Images from that march inspired the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act just two months later.

“[Lewis] took his entire life and he dedicated it to people who were younger than him and people who weren’t even born yet — he put his life at risk day in and day out,” Coffey said. 

While on the bridge, the runners took a moment of silence before jogging on to Cadman Plaza Park’s newly established “Juneteenth Grove.” The grove is the first of several parks that NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver has promised to rename in honor of Black Americans in every NYC borough by November 2.

Bicycle protesters Street Riders NYC helped the runners shut the bridge safely to cross. Photo credit: Steve Finley and Adrian Umpierrez.

There, runners were addressed by speaker Dominic DuPont, a Black man from Flatbush who spent 21 years in prison and was granted executive clemency by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2017. 

Coffey said for him, the running protests were about educating people about Black history. “It’s educating me in certain areas because this was never taught at school. Now it’s about learning and defining what Black history is.” 

This is the third running protest Coffey has held, and he plans to hold one every month. “We’re not stopping this thing at all, we’ll be out there next month doing the same thing and making sure we get treated the fair way.”

To get involved, follow Coffey on Instagram.

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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