President Joe Biden arrived in Alabama to pay tribute to “Bloody Sunday” and joined thousands to commemorate the civil rights movement that led to the passage of landmark voting rights 60 years ago.
The visit to Selma is also an opportunity for Biden to speak directly to the current generation of civil rights activists. Many are feeling devastated that Biden failed to deliver on a campaign promise to boost voting rights and are eager for his administration to keep the spotlight on the issue.
Biden intends to use his remarks to emphasize the importance of commemorating “Bloody Sunday” lest history be erased, while arguing that the struggle for the right to vote is an integral part of economic justice and civil rights for Black Americans and White House officials remain named.
This year’s commemoration comes as the historic town of about 18,000 people still digs after the effects of an EF-2 tornado in January that destroyed or damaged thousands of properties in and around Selma. The scars of that storm are still visible.
Blocks from the stage where Biden was scheduled to speak were houses that were crumbling or roofless. Orange spray paint marked buildings that could no longer be saved, with instructions to “tear them down”.
President Joe Biden arrived in Alabama to pay tribute to the heroes of “Bloody Sunday.”
Prior to Biden’s visit, Rev. William Barber II, a co-chair of the Campaign for the Poor, and six other activists wrote to Biden and members of Congress to express frustration at the lack of progress on voting rights legislation. They urged Washington politicians visiting Selma not to sully the memories of the late civil rights leaders John Lewis, Hosea Williams and others with empty platitudes.
“We say to President Biden, let’s bring this to America as a moral issue and show how it affects everyone,” Barber said in an interview. “When voting rights passed to Selma, it didn’t just help black people. It helped America itself. We need the President to restate this: When you block voting rights, you don’t just hurt black people. You are harming America itself.’
Few moments were as lasting for the civil rights movement as what happened in Selma on March 7, 1965, and the weeks that followed.
About 600 peaceful protesters led by Lewis and Williams had gathered that day, just weeks after the fatal shooting of a young black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by an Alabama soldier.
Lewis, who later represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the others were brutally beaten by Alabama soldiers and sheriff’s deputies as they attempted to cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, at the start of a planned 54-mile hike into the State capital of Montgomery as part of larger effort to register Black voters in the South
The images of police violence sparked outrage across the country. Days later, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. led the so-called “Turnaround Tuesday” march, in which protesters approached a police wall by the bridge and prayed before turning back.
President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Act of 1965 eight days after Bloody Sunday, calling Selma one of those rare moments in American history when “history and destiny meet at a single point in time.” On March 21, King began a third march under federal protection that grew by the thousands by the time he arrived in the state capital. Five months later, Johnson signed the law into law.
As a candidate in 2020, Biden vowed to advance sweeping legislation to strengthen voting rights protections. His 2021 law, called the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, included provisions to curb partisan manipulation of congressional districts, lower voting barriers, and bring transparency to a campaign funding system that allows wealthy donors to fund political causes anonymously.
It passed the then-Democrat-controlled House of Representatives but did not get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, passing such a bill is highly unlikely.
“Everything needs it’s time. And it might be another semester before he actually accomplishes all the things he wants to do for the nation,” said Harriett Thomas, 76, who was a college student when she embarked on the path, dubbed “Bloody Sunday” should become known. ‘
Several hundred lined up in downtown Selma well before Biden’s appearance, including Delores Gresham, 65, a retired healthcare worker from Birmingham. She got there four hours early and got a front row seat so her grandchildren could hear the President and see the memorial service.
“I want them to know what happened here,” she said.
Two years ago, on the anniversary, Biden issued an executive order directing federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and urging agency heads to develop plans to give federal employees time off to vote or themselves to register as a non-partisan election worker, and much more.
But many federal agencies are lagging behind in meeting the vote registration requirements of Biden’s order, according to a report released Thursday by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The group says full implementation of the registration efforts outlined in the regulation would mean an additional 3.5 million voter registration applications annually.
Selma officials are hoping Biden will also address the January tornado that devastated the city and exposed poverty issues that have persisted in Selma for decades.
Biden approved a disaster declaration and agreed to provide additional help with debris removal and clearance, costs that Mayor James Perkins said the small town could not afford.
“I understand that other communities of our size and demographics have similar challenges … but I don’t think anyone can claim what Selma has done for this nation and the contributions we have made to this nation,” he said.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11823767/Biden-pays-tribute-civil-rights-activists-Selma-Bloody-Sunday-anniversary.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Biden pays tribute to civil rights activists in Selma on ‘Bloody Sunday’ anniversary