Thousands Re-Enact Historic March Across the Edmund Pettus Bridge

This year’s event also calls attention to strict new voting and immigration laws.

Posted: 03/05/2012 10:58 AM EST
2012 presidential election, 2012 election, voting rights, NAACP, Martin Luther King Jr., Voting Rights Act of 1965

Thousands of people on Sunday participated in a ceremonial journey over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL, to mark the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. But this year’s event had a more modern purpose — to protest tough new voting laws in Alabama and other states around the nation — that sadly was too similar to the original march’s goal, fighting for the right to vote for people of color. Some, like Amelia Boynton Robinson, 100, who was there in 1965 when demonstrators were attacked by the police with tear gas and billy clubs, were pushed across the bridge in wheelchairs.


“That we find ourselves leading a new march for voting rights in Alabama and across this country as opposed to re-enacting the old march is sad and makes you angry,” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous. “This march taking place all week from Selma to Montgomery is extremely relevant to both our present and our history. We thought fights like this were a thing of the past, a milestone of the mid-20th century, but will now be remembered as the most defining battle of the early 21st century.”


Alabama’s new law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls will go into effect in 2014. This week’s protest also is in opposition to an immigration law that will require police to determine citizenship status during traffic stops and government agencies to verify legal residency for employment, enrolling a child in school, renewing license plates and other transactions.


The march across the bridge will end in Montgomery on Friday with a rally at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once served as pastor.


Jealous said that lawmakers looked at the high voter turnout in 2008, when the largest and most diverse electorate turned out at the polls and said “yes,” so now they’re saying “no” by trying to suppress the vote in 2012.


“The reality is that opponents of voting rights and people pushing these laws are doing it to hold back the future by targeting students and the black and brown vote,” he said. “Young African-Americans need to get involved and stand up because their vote is being attacked and their future is being defined.”


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(Photo: AP/File)

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