Christie: My door is open if Lewis wants to meet

As civil rights movement hero U.S. Rep. John Lewis prepares for a press conference to discuss comments made by Gov. Chris Christie about the movement that made Lewis an icon, Christie invited the congressman for a visit to the Statehouse.

“Congressman Lewis is an American hero,” Christie said.  “Any time that he wants to come to New Jersey he will be welcome with open arms.  If Congressman Lewis wanted to come by and see me I’d clear my calendar to see him.  I’d be excited to meet him. I’ve never met him.”

Lewis is holding a press conference this afternoon to respond to comments Christie made last week that minorities in the South would have welcomed a referendum on civil rights similar to the one he has proposed on same sex marriage.

“I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South,” Christie said during a town hall meeting.

Lewis is scheduled to appear with U.S. Rep. Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

In the 1960s, Lewis was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was largely responsible for organizing student activism. By 1963, Lewis was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement alongside Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins.

In 1965, he led 600 protesters on a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.  The protesters clashed with State Troopers and many were beaten in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Christie: My door is open if Lewis wants to meet