Recently, a group of civil rights activists reenacted a historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The organized reenactment was meant to celebrate the historic march for voter rights and civil rights in 1965, but organizers and participants say that the current commemoration of the event is also intended to highlight concerns about current voter restrictions.
47 years ago, the marches known as the Selma to Montgomery marches actually consisted of three marches and are considered the peak of the civil rights efforts in the US. The marches were initiated by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). The two groups were working on voter-registration efforts but appealed to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. as resistance to Black voter registration grew. Civic leaders arrived in the area to organize opposition to the resistance. On March 7, 1965, the first march took place. It became known as Bloody Sunday, because 600 marchers were attacked by police using tear gas and billy clubs. The second march took place just a few days later. During the third march, which commenced March 16, protesters walked an average of 10 miles a day along Route 80, until they reached Montgomery on March 25. The marchers were protected by Federal command.
The reenactment of the march this year is organized by National Action Network, Rev. Al Sharpton, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, Rev. Jesse Jackson, National Council of La Raza, NAACP, and other groups. This year, thousands of people joined the event. According to organizers, the event this year is especially important because it is an election year and voter rights are being eroded.
According to NAACP President Ben Jealous, the Voting Rights Act is being threatened with new rules that make it harder for some qualified voters to exercise their right to vote. Current voter ID laws, according to Jealous, will make it hard or impossible for about 5 million voters to cast their vote. Current laws require voters to present a US passport or driver’s license with their current address in order to cast their vote. Jealous calls these measures unnecessary and says that they threaten the US idea of “one person, one vote.”
Once the current march reenactment ended, marchers met at the Capitol in Montgomery to express their concerns about Alabama’s HB56 immigration law as well as their concerns about voter ID laws. Many marchers want to see both laws changed. Marchers and organizers also say that the march, in addition to calling attention to current voter and immigration issues, is important in remembering the history of the US and the sacrifices made by ordinary people.