John Lewis on Trump in emotional speech: 'I know racism when I feel it'

Representative is civil rights icon

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Paul Morigi 2017 Getty Images

(CNN) - Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis delivered an emotional speech condemning President Donald Trump's racist tweets on Tuesday, slamming the President for using racist language against four Democratic congresswomen of color.

"I know racism when I see it. I know racism when I feel it. And at the highest level of government, there's no room for racism," Lewis said. "It sows the seeds of violence and destroys the hopes and dreams of people. The world is watching. They are shocked and dismayed because it seems we have lost our way as a nation, as a proud and great people."

Lewis added: "We are one Congress and we are here to serve one House, the American House, the American people."

The speech from the Georgia Democrat came just before the House officially voted Tuesday to condemn Trump's racist tweets. Tuesday's vote ended up falling largely along party lines, with 187 Republicans opposing the resolution. Four Republicans, however, broke ranks to support the Democratic-led effort.

The resolution specifically condemned the attacks Trump lodged at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Illhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley when he tweeted that they should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Trump has denied the tweets were racist.

Lewis -- who had his skull broken by white police officers while marching in the famous 1965 Edmund Pettus Bridge civil rights protest in Alabama -- closed his remarks Tuesday by drawing on his own experience facing racism.

"Some of us have been victims of the pain, the stain and the hurt of racism. In the '50s and during the '60s, segregationists told us to go back when we protested for our rights. They told ministers, priests, rabbis and nuns to go back. They told innocent little children seeking just an equal education to go back," he said.

"As a nation and as a people we need to go forward and not backward."

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