SELMA (USA), March 6 (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Alabama to honor the heroes of “Bloody Sunday,” joining thousands for the annual commemoration honoring civil rights A seminal moment in the movement that led to America’s adoption. Landmark voting rights legislation nearly 60 years ago.
The visit to Selma is also an opportunity for Biden to speak directly with contemporary civil rights activists. Many are frustrated that Biden has failed to deliver on a campaign promise to strengthen voting rights and are eager to see his administration continue to focus on the issue.
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Biden intends to use his remarks to emphasize the importance of honoring “Bloody Sunday” so that history is not erased, while trying to demonstrate that the fight for voting rights remains integral to economic justice and civil rights for black Americans, the White House said. officials said.
This year’s commemoration comes as the historic city of about 18,000 people is still digging out from the fallout from January’s EF-2 tornado, which destroyed or damaged thousands of properties in and around Selma. real estate. The scars of that storm are still evident. A few blocks from the stage where Biden spoke, houses collapsed or were roofless. Orange spray paint marks buildings that cannot be salvaged, with instructions to “demolish”.
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Ahead of Biden’s visit, the Reverend William Barber II, co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign, and six other activists wrote to Biden and members of Congress expressing their frustration at the lack of progress on voting rights legislation. They urged Washington politicians visiting Selma not to stain the memory of late civil rights activists John Lewis, Hosea Williams and others with empty platitudes.
“We said to President Biden, let’s describe America as a moral issue, and let’s show how it affects everybody,” Barber said in an interview. “When voting rights passed after Selma, It’s not just helping black people. It’s helping America itself. We need the president to redefine this: When you block voting rights, you’re not just hurting black people. You’re hurting America itself.”
Few moments have had such a profound impact on the civil rights movement as what happened in Selma on March 7, 1965, and in the weeks that followed.
Some 600 peaceful demonstrators, led by Lewis and Williams, gathered that day, just weeks after a soldier in Alabama shot and killed Jimmy Lee Jackson, a young black man.
Lewis later represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, where others were supposed to walk the 54 miles to the state capital, Montgomery, as part of a larger effort to register black voters in the South.
Images of police violence have sparked outrage across the country. A few days later, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led what became known as Turnaround Tuesday, with marchers approaching a police wall on a bridge, praying and returning.
President Lyndon 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 simultaneously.” On March 21, King began his third march under federal protection, reaching the state capital with thousands more. Five months later, Johnson signed the bill into law.
As a 2020 candidate, Biden has promised sweeping legislation to strengthen voting rights protections. His 2021 legislation, called the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, includes provisions to limit partisan gerrymandering in congressional districts, remove barriers to voting and increase transparency in the campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to fund political causes anonymously .
It passed the House of Representatives, then controlled by Democrats, but failed to secure the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. With Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives, passage of such legislation is highly unlikely.
“Everything takes time. He’s probably going to need one more term before he can really do all the things he wants to do for the country,” said Harriett Thomas, 76, as “Bloody Sunday.”
Long before Biden showed up, hundreds of people lined up in downtown Selma, including Delores Gresham, 65, a retired health care worker from Birmingham. She arrived four hours early to grab a front row seat so her grandchildren could hear the president and see the commemoration.
“I want them to know what’s going on here,” she said.
On the anniversary two years ago, Biden issued an executive order directing federal agencies to expand voter registration, calling on agency heads to come up with plans to give federal employees time to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, and more .
But according to a report released Thursday by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, many federal agencies are lagging behind in meeting the voting registration requirements of Biden’s order. The group said full implementation of the registration efforts set out in the order would mean an additional 3.5 million (3.5 million) voter registration applications per year.
Selma officials hope Biden will also address January’s tornado, which devastated the city and exposed decades of poverty in Selma.
Biden approved a disaster declaration and agreed to provide additional help for debris cleanup and removal, a cost Mayor James Perkins said the small city could not afford alone.
“I understand that other communities of our size and demographics face similar challenges … but I don’t think anyone can claim what Selma has done for this country and what we have done for this country, “He said. (Associated Press)
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