RETRACING THE STEPS

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‘Bloody Sunday’ marchers recall pains of the past and the present

BY VERN SMITH
TRICE EDNEY NEWS WIRE

A day after President Barack Obama walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” – the police assault on civil rights demonstrators that led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – thousand of marchers thronged the bridge beginning in early morning and lasting into late afternoon on March 8.

Marchers make their way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 8.
Marchers make their way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 8.

The president was introduced on Saturday by Georgia Democratic Congressman John Lewis, an Alabama native and one of the March leaders who was injured in the “Bloody Sunday” violence.

Obama praised Lewis as one of his longtime heroes.

Obama was joined on stage by Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, and Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

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Speeches at Brown Chapel
More people began arriving early Sunday morning at the foot of Broad Street just below the base of the Pettus Bridge. By noon the crush of thousands had filled the space in preparation for the symbolic crossing.

Among the many speakers at Sunday’s program at Brown Chapel AME Church, the original start point for the 1965 March, outgoing attorney general Eric Holder vowed to continue his advocacy to strengthen voting rights laws even after he leaves office as the nation’s first African-American attorney general.

No matter what he does, Holder said, “I will never leave this work. I will never abandon this mission. Nor can you. If we are to honor those who came before us and those still among us, we must match their sacrifice, their effort.”

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Remembering Ferguson, Jimmie Lee Jackson
With many families in the crowd, Sunday’s gathering had a festive atmosphere. But the recent events involving police and unarmed Black citizens and the scathing federal report outlining institutional racism in the Ferguson, Mo police department was on the minds of many.

Marchers carried signs protesting an end to the spate of shootings of unarmed Black men by White police officers, gun violence and immigration reform.

The multiracial, intergenerational marchers sang, kneeled, and locked arms as they retraced the first steps of a march intended to reach the Alabama state capital in Montgomery to protest the shooting on Feb. 18, 1965 of Jimmie Lee Jackson.

Jackson, a voter registration worker with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was shot by Alabama State Trooper James Fowler as he attempted to protect his mother from a beating by state troopers after a voting rights march in Marion, Ala. Jackson, who was unarmed, later died from his wounds in a Selma hospital.

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