The Alabama New South Coalition and the SaveOurselves (SOS) Coalition for Justice and Democracy sponsored the ‘Freedom Ride for Voting Rights’ starting from Selma on Saturday, August 3 and going through five states to reach Washington, D. C. on August 6, 2019, the 54th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA).
The bus ride by sixty people joined by two additional carloads of people was coordinated with the national LiftOurVote Campaign to increase awareness of voter suppression and the fight to restore the pre-clearance sections of the VRA as well as support a national effort for voter registration, education and mobilization for the upcoming 2020 elections.
The Freedom Ride made stops in each state along the way holding rallies and meetings with local groups to promote voting rights and support the Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR4) which will restore the preclearance provisions of Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA which were stripped from the act by the Supreme Court in the Shelby vs. Holder case of six years ago.
The Freedom Ride stopped in Montgomery, Alabama on Saturday morning for a rally in front of the Alabama State Capitol. Later in the afternoon, a rally was held at the Beulah Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia because the Georgia state officials wanted a high price for police protection for a rally at the Courthouse. The group spent the night in Columbia, South Carolina.
On Sunday morning, the freedom riders visited a memorial on the SC State College at Orangeburg to three Black students who were killed by State Troopers in the 1980’s while conducting a non-violent protest trying to desegregate a bowling alley. The memorial honors Henry E. Smith, Samuel Hammond Jr. and Delano B. Middleton.
The riders attended a church service at the Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, SC pastored by Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III. The church congregation welcomed the freedom riders and applauded the group. The next stop was the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC where the nine parishioners were shot down during a prayer meeting.
The group spent the night in Raleigh, North Carolina and held a morning rally at the State Capitol. From Raleigh the bus traveled to Jamestown, Virginia to see the place where slavery was initiated in North America in 1619, 400 years ago. From Jamestown, the freedom bus made its way to Richmond, Virginia for another state Capitol rally. From Richmond, VA the bus traveled to Washington D. C.
On Tuesday, August6, 2019 in Washington, D. C., to commemorate the 54th anniversary of passage of the VRA, the freedom riders held two rallies, one at the U. S. Supreme Court and one in front of the nation’s Capitol to dramatize the demands of the trip and to support the theme of the ride that “every issue is a voting issue”. On Wednesday, the freedom riders will participate in a National Planning and Strategy Conference on Voting Rights before returning home to Alabama.