Controversy Continues Over President’s Visit to Selma on Fiftieth Anniversary of Selma-to-Montgomery March

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Civil Rights activists cross the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma on the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 2012: Glynn Wilson

By Glynn Wilson –

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The controversy between the White House, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and African-American Alabama political leaders continues and has not been resolved, according to information obtained by the New American Journal on Saturday.

The SCLC held a press conference in Montgomery on Friday reiterating their intention to go forward with the planned march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, even without the cooperation of the first African-American President in United States history, Barack Obama, who is still working with U.S. Rep. John Lewis to find a time and place to speak in Selma on Saturday, the actual date of the 50th anniversary on March 7.

The controversy reminded some commentators of the spat between the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Martin Luther King Jr.’s SCLC depicted in the movie Selma, where personalities and differences of opinion on the way to approach achieving voting rights divided the civil rights movement even back in the early 1960s.

Jeffery Jones, a Mobile resident who has been involved for several years in commemorations of the Selma march, said it did appear to be such a controversy. But he indicated that it was the president’s fault for not agreeing to come to Selma on Sunday to join with the rest of the marchers, a day those in the movement consider a holy day.

“If he wants to be presidential, if he wants to be remembered like President Johnson, he should join us in Selma and bring proposed legislation or executive action to help the cause of voting rights,” Jones said. “The Voting Rights Act is not working. It is under attack on every front. We need his help.”

SCLC Board Chairman Bernard Lafayette, SCLC President Charles Steele, Alabama Senator Hank Sanders and others were there in Montgomery Friday to insist that the Sunday march must go on, no matter what the president decides to do.

“We are re-enacting the full 54-mile march this year,” Steele said.

The march will begin in Selma on Sunday, March 8, with the commemoration of Bloody Sunday, and will conclude on Friday, March 13, with an 11 a.m. event on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.

“It is so important that we re-enact the full March this year on the 50th Anniversary,” said state Senator Hank Sanders, the Selma Democrat. “Every year for 40-plus years we have commemorated Bloody Sunday, which is sacred and the lifeblood of all events surrounding the Bridge Crossing Jubilee and the Selma-to-Montgomery March. But every five years we have also re-enacted the full Selma-to-Montgomery March, just as we will do next month.”

SCLC Board Chair Bernard Lafayette said this is not just a march in commemoration, but a march in recommitment to Voting Rights.

“We expect this to be the biggest March that we have ever had,” Lafayette said. “SCLC is heading this effort just as we have headed it every time.”

It will be co-sponsored by many other organizations including the National Voting Rights Museum, the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, and others. Sanders and state Rep. Alvin Holmes are also serving as co-chairs.

“The Selma-to-Montgomery March is known all over the world,” said Rep. Thad McClammy, a Democrat from Montgomery. “It is a symbol for voting rights struggles everywhere. It is important that we re-enact this march as we rededicate ourselves to protecting voting rights.”

Holmes, also a Montgomery Democrat, said the Selma-to-Montgomery March started in Selma, but it ended in Montgomery with tens of thousands gathering in front of the State Capitol.

“This March we’ll be ending in Montgomery again, and we invite people to participate in mass just as they did 50 years ago,” Holmes said. “We are still fighting for voting rights.”

Sanders said the right to vote is being challenged at every turn.

He called the voter photo ID movement a “modern day poll tax,” proof of citizenship to register a “modern day literacy test” and he compared the reduction in voting and voter registration days to the Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“Americans are losing the right to vote, which so many people sacrificed their lives and blood to secure,” Sanders said.

“Now more than ever we need a recommitment to voting rights in America,” said state Rep. John Knight, also a Montgomery Democrat.

“It is good that a large delegation of Members of Congress are coming to Selma this year,” President Steele said. “We hope that this will inspire each of them to be fully committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act in full. Complete restoration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, including full implementation of Section 5, is vital to protecting the right to vote, and we hope that every member of Congress in attendance will support and push for this to happen. We ask them to not only participate in the Bloody Sunday March but also in the full Selma-to-Montgomery March.”

Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford said the March will not end in Montgomery.

“We will continue on to Washington, D.C.,” Ford said. “We will be urging all the members of Congress who are coming to Alabama as well as all members of Congress to vote to fully restore the Voting Rights Act. We cannot be satisfied until the Voting Rights Act is restored to its original intent and purpose.”

The White House could not be reached for comment on Saturday, but we will be following up on this story soon.

We covered the anniversary wall-to-wall three years ago like no one has ever covered it before or since, with daily stories, many photos and videos.

Selma-to-Montgomery March No Celebration of the Right to Vote This Year

We were able to do that in large measure due to advertising support from the Alabama AFL-CIO prompted by the Civil Rights Committee of the national AFL-CIO. We do not have the budget to replicate that this year — at least not yet. If anyone wants to see the type of comprehensive coverage only we are equipped to provide, get in touch ASAP.

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© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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  2 comments for “Controversy Continues Over President’s Visit to Selma on Fiftieth Anniversary of Selma-to-Montgomery March

  1. February 25, 2015 at 3:02 am

    Yes I march in this group like this photo of me thanks .

  2. February 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    The President is on the wrong side of history on this. He should realize his mistake; apologize to the leaders of Bloody Sunday and change his schedule to Sunday. “Bloody Sunday is what it name says it is.

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