GOP leaders to skip Selma
Carl Ulrich returns to Selma, Alabama, for first time since 1965 peace march.
An Edmonton man has returned to Selma for the first time since he watched hundreds of unarmed protesters try to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama in early March 1965.On March 7, 1965, 15-year-old Harris couldn’t see much from the rear of the crowd where she stood along with her 13-year-old brother and other students.Nearly one-fifth of Congress will be in Selma, Ala., this weekend with President Barack Obama and his family to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march – a watershed moment that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
He watched with horror as the peaceful protesters trying to take a stand on the bridge were attacked by Alabama State Police on Mar. 7, 1965 — a moment that was, for him, a call to action. “I think what really got to me was when I saw what happened with Bloody Sunday. Civil rights groups say the commemoration of this moment in the civil rights movement should spark work in Congress to update the law after the Supreme Court weakened it in 2013. The fact that was covered by TV, so the whole world saw that, which was just horrendous,” he said. “I mean people, we liked to pretend we didn’t know what was going on in the south, but when we saw something like that, there was just no way you could ignore it.” In the days following the violence, Dr. King inquired about voter registration procedures but Golson told him that if he was not a prospective voter in Lowndes county, “It’s none of your business.” King visited two nearby countries after leading a voter registration drive in Selma. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)The Associated PressFILE – In this March 5, 1965 file photo, the mayor and his auxiliary police, armed with shotguns, rifles, pistols and tear gas, form a roadblock at city limits to stop 150 African Americans from marching into town to the courthouse in a demonstration for voting rights in Camden, Ala.
Though progress has been made, half a century later, Selma itself is still struggling, and the country still grapples with the painful legacy of racism. “At the age of 12, I made the choice to join the marches, to march to the capitol of Montgomery. A local church congregation supplied his food. “It was really incredible, how friendly they were with this, and taking people into their homes — and also what was interesting is that most of us, as white middle-class northerners, really had very little experience in terms of living with people, living in public housing, and that was really quite a moving experience and an eye opener.” Alabama’s governor George Wallace refused to grant protection for the march, so Ulrich and the others had to wait for nearly a week until federal protection could be put in place. Butterfield, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will be one of 98 members of both parties from the House of Representatives and the Senate going to Selma. Butterfield said he hoped they’d learn about contemporary stories about voting restrictions during the weekend of events and then be willing to consider updating the law.
Behind them, Harris saw a man on horseback with a nightstick, and she knew he saw them, too. “Come on,” Harris remembers saying as they raced to the safety of nearby Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where they knew they could shut the doors on police. If ever there was a time to say “We’re here because we get how important this is to the country”, it’s now for Republicans. (Republican congressional sources note that a bill co-sponsored by Alabama GOP Rep. These were very young people that made these changes happen.” “I’m there watching television, and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ And I jumped out of bed, and ran to the bridge. The Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won more than 11 percent among African Americans in more than a decade, and it’s hard to imagine that changing drastically over the next 20 months.
I remember some of my classmates saying to me, ‘We may get hurt.’ And I said ‘We’re already hurting.’ If you had gone through what I had gone through, you had no fear.’ “I was scared. She says she spent many nights listening to Martin Luther King Jr.; others speak about the importance of the vote, about nonviolence in the face of violence, about justice.
Standing together to mark a moment when the country was riven by racism but emerged from it to be a stronger, better place is simply the right thing to do. And, if that’s not compelling enough a reason, Steele makes the key political point: “If our leadership can’t stand with the black community in Selma, why would they believe we will stand with them on anything?” Sometimes in politics, just being there is the key. Harris recalls her mother’s repeated attempts to register to vote and the sickening look of the word “denied” that was always stamped across her papers.
She admired her mother for going to work at a cigar factory each day and attending meetings in secret at night, afraid of getting fired if her employer found out. Harris has now grown (or “seasoned,” as she likes to say) to the point where she has witnessed change for the better, but also has seen some scary parts of history repeat themselves.
I felt so good to see that many people.” Malden was King’s barber, beginning in 1954. “And he came by about two or three weeks before he went to Memphis, Tennessee. That’s the last time I saw him.” “I’m glad to be here and to tell my children and my grandkids that I was one of the foot soldiers that went across the bridge. Johnson to protect marchers planning to march from Selma, Ala. to the state capitol at Montgomery, stand under a road sign showing the distance to the capital. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced a bill on Feb. 11 that would restore federal oversight for states that have a persistent record of recent voting rights violations. Harris can still feel racial tension on the street at times, she says, and watching the news from Ferguson, Missouri over the past six months has been gut-wrenching.
Protests agianst police brutality, some of which turned violent themselves, sprung up in Ferguson and elsewhere across the U.S. after Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in August of last year. Wilson was not indicted on any charges. “It’s heartbreaking to see all these social injustices taking place,” Harris said. “There’s too much of it.
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