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Black Pastors to Ocasio-Cortez: ‘Stop Co-Opting Civil Rights Movement’

Newly elected senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continues to use exaggeration and over the top statements to get attention — and this time, Black pastors clapped back.

Ocasio-Cortez was called out this week for trampling on the Civil Rights movement and co-opting the work and suffering of others for her own political agenda.

The rebuke came from an unlikely source; a group of pastors demanding she cease using the accomplishments and hard work of others to push forward her own agenda.

The Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) doesn’t generally get involved with politics, but the claiming of the Civil Rights movement by Ocasio-Cortez was too much for them to bear, and the group issued a statement and a petition this week.

Reverend William Owens, the president of CAAP, released a press statement that mentioned Ocasio-Cortez by name and rebuked her for using the hard work of others for her own personal gain.

“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has fallen into the bad habit of comparing her political goals to the American civil rights movement,” said Owens. “While it is obvious she understands the importance of that movement, she does not seem to realize that her statements trivialize the work of those who marched.”

Instagram Live Triggers Rebuke for Ocasio-Cortez

The complaint stems from a recent social media broadcast on Instagram. The senator shares off the cuff, “informal” and attention-seeking commentary on a regular basis — the problematic statements stem from a recent Instagram Live. While eating her lunch on camera, Ocasio-Cortez likened the plight of climate change activists to those who fought and died for the Civil Rights movement. This did not sit well with many viewers, including the pastors of CAAP. 

According to Reverend Owens, the most recent comparisons made by Ocasio-Cortez make light of the struggle faced by those who marched for civil rights.

The pastors felt that the civil rights movement needed to be defended against anyone who sought to co-opt the sacrifices of others for personal agendas or gain.

Ocasio-Cortez claims that climate change is on par with denying citizens their civil rights and liberties:

“There a lot of people who hide the fact that their families and their grandparents fought against the principles of equal rights in the United States,” she stated, while eating her lunch on camera.

She continued, comparing those who tried to oppress the civil rights of others with those who disagree with the party line on climate change:

“So just know that while a lot of people can hide what their grandparents did … in the civil rights movement, you should also know that the Internet documents everything. And your grandchildren will not be able to hide the fact that you fought against acknowledging and taking bold action against climate change.”\

Viewers were quick to react, particularly those who had fought for civil rights or who had parents and grandparents who marched and sacrificed for the cause.

According to Breitbart News, CAAP feels the senator’s attempt to use the movement for her own agenda and gain is both disrespectful and distasteful:

“Speaking as someone who was there, lived through Jim Crow, and marched with Dr. King, it is disrespectful to see Rep. Ocasio-Cortez try to use that movement for her own political ends,” CAAP leader Owens said.

He continued:

“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is attempting to borrow the dignity of a great political movement to lend legitimacy to her own proposals. But her ideas must stand or fall on their own merits, not ride on the suffering and pain of others.”

Pastors of the CAAP felt so strongly about the issue that they launched a formal petition online, calling Ocasio-Cortez out by name and rebuking her personally, calling her out for taking advantage of others and for trivializing the hard work, pain and struggles of those who lead the fight for civil rights before Ocasio-Cortez was even born.

The pastors spoke for themselves, the leaders of the civil rights movement and for those who participated, but who no longer have a voice.

While the highly publicized petition has circulated for over a week, Ocasio-Cortez has yet to respond. She has, however, refrained from further mentions of the civil rights movement and has not used it to forward her own political agenda since the petition arrived.