Alabama Republican celebrates KKK member's birthday as state remembers civil rights hero John Lewis

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A Republican senator in Alabama celebrated a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member’s birthday at the same time hundreds were honouring the life of civil rights hero John Lewis.

State Representative Will Dismukes took part in an event marking the KKK grand wizard and former Confederate Army General, Nathan Bedford Forrest, as Alabama honoured the late Georgia Democrat this weekend.

The KKK event took place near Selma, Alabama, where Lewis’s body was carried across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday.

It comes more than 50 years after Lewis marched across that same bridge in a civil rights demonstration that became known as Bloody Sunday.

Meanwhile, Mr Dismukes wrote on Facebook that “[he] had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration.”

“Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!”, added the Representative, who later deleted the comments and photos showing several Confederate flags.

As a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War, Forrest infamously oversaw the massacre of black American Union soldiers at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in April 1864

Republicans and Democrats condemned Mr Dismikes decision to commemorate Forrest on a weekend that had honoured Lewis, who died with pancreatic cancer earlier this month aged 80.

State Republican party chair Terry Lathan said “It is one thing to honour one’s Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organisation with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans”.

She added: “I strongly urge his constituents to contact Rep. Dismukes to articulate and share with him their thoughts on his personal actions.”

Mr Dismukes then defended his actions in another deleted post which denied “glorifying” the group.

“First and foremost, my post yesterday was in no way related to disrespecting the passing of Rep. John Lewis,” he wrote. “That wasn’t even a thought in my mind. That is not who I am as a person.”

On Monday, Alabama House Democrats added: “This is a stain not only on our history but also on our present. We are well past the point where we as Alabamians and society as a whole can entertain this racist nonsense any longer.”

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