Thousands sign petition to rename historic Selma bridge after Rep. John Lewis

Thousands of people reenact the historic marches to Selma by walking over the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the Selma 50th anniversary celebrations. (Photo by Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images)

A petition to rename a historic bridge in Selma, Alabama after civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has gained nearly 100,000 signatures less than 48 hours after it went online.

The Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after a former Confederate military officer and Ku Klux Klan leader turned United States Senator, served as the backdrop for the infamous 1965 "Bloody Sunday" confrontation between Alabama state troopers and black activists marching for voting rights.

The troopers knocked the protesters -- led by a 25-year-old Lewis -- to the ground with sticks and fired tear gas at them on the bridge.

The nationally televised event generated nationwide support for the civil rights movement.

“It’s far past time to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge after Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon that nearly gave his life on that bridge,” Michael Starr Hopkins, who posted the petition, writes. “Edmund Pettus was a bitter racist, undeserving of the honor bestowed upon him. As we wipe away this country's long stain of bigotry, we must also wipe away the names of men like Edmund Pettus.”

The petition has now drawn the attention of celebrities including filmmaker Ava DuVernay and newscaster Dan Rather:

Lewis, a longtime congressman who revealed a Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis late last year, is still active in civil rights.

Last weekend he visited the BLACK LIVES MATTER mural painted on 16th Street, calling the display "very moving."

RELATED: 'It's very moving,' civil rights icon John Lewis visits Black Lives Matter Plaza