Sunday March 7th was the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast held in the Wallace Community College parking lot and a Slow-ride of over 200 cars across the bridge were the only in-person activities of the four-day Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The Unity Breakfast, which was held in a socially distanced way with people in their cars viewing the speakers on two large television screens, featured a host of speakers including President Joe Biden, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Mayor James Perkins, Martin Luther King III, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Charles Steele, SCLC President, Jonathan Jackson representing his father Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and many others. Several persons received awards including Congressman James Clyburn, Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia and LaTosha Brown and Attorney Cliff Albright, co-founders of Black Voters Matter also made presentations. In his video comments, President Biden announced his plans to sign an Executive Order later in the day, making it easier to register and vote and mobilizing all Federal agencies to support voter registration and participation. Biden who had attended the Unity Breakfast in 2014, when he was Vice-President, said, “We must be vigilant or people will take our basic rights away. The Republicans have been chipping away at voting rights for many years. Now 256 measures have been introduced in 43 state legislatures to cut back and suppress the right to vote and make it difficult for people to vote.” Biden and other speakers promoted support for and passage of HR-1 “For the People Act” which will strengthen voting rights, make voter registration automatic and contains ethics provisions to reduce the influence of money in campaigns; and HR-4 “the John Lewis Voting Rights Act” which would restore Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, stripped out by the U. S. Supreme Court in Shelby vs. Holder, and again allow for Justice Department pre-clearance of state and local voting regulations. Congresswoman Terri Sewell said she was proud to stand on the shoulders of the many foot-soldiers that made the Civil Rights Movement and Voting Rights Movement a success. She said that she had just voted to approve the American Rescue Plan which will provide financial and healthcare benefits to the American people and mitigate the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. “ I regret that this is our first celebration of Bloody Sunday without my friend and mentor, Congressman John Lewis, who passed in 2020. We must redouble our efforts to pass HR1 and HR 4 to honor his memory,” said Sewell. Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said it was important to support HR-1, HR-4 and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for criminal justice reforms. She suggested calling your Senators at 202-224-3121 (the U. S. Capitol switchboard) and urge them to vote for these important reforms. Cliff Albright in his remarks said, “The movement is not over. As we did in 1965, we must continue to do today.” He urged the crowd to “Push their U. S. Senators to end the filibuster, an undemocratic relic of slavery. We will not be able to pass HR-1, HR-4 and other critical legislation, as long as the 60 vote requirements of the filibuster remain in place.” LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said. “ I am a child of Selma. This community trained me and taught me to believe in the power of people and when people rise up they can make meaningful change.” Rev. Bernard Lafayette spoke to honor the contributions of civil rights leaders who had died in the past year: Dr. Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian, Congressman John Lewis, Attorney Bruce Boynton and Vernon Jordan. At the conclusion of the Unity Breakfast, about 200 cars, with their flashers on participated in a slow-ride across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the spot where marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday in 1965. A group of family members led by Rev. Lafayette said prayers and then placed wreaths at the Voting Rights Memorial Park on the eastern side of the bridge.
By Eric Velasco, The Washington Post
Fifty-five years ago, Alabama state troopers beat John Lewis and hundreds of protesters as they crossed Edmund Pettus Bridge. On Sunday, troopers saluted the late civil rights leader after he made his final journey across the span.
The body of the 17-term congressman was carried on a horse-drawn caisson from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to the bridge, where rose petals had been scattered. Two horses and a driver led the flag-draped casket, which paused a few minutes on the bridge above the Alabama River. On the other side, the words of “We Shall Overcome” could be heard as family, hundreds of onlookers and several troopers greeted Lewis.
A military honor guard moved the casket from the caisson to a hearse for the trip to Montgomery. Alabama state police were accompanying Lewis to the state capital.
“It is poetic justice that this time Alabama state troopers will see John to his safety,” Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) said.
The ceremony is the second day in six days of tributes to the son of sharecroppers, fighter for civil rights and lawmaker widely hailed as the conscience of Congress. Lewis (D-Ga.) died July 17 at the age of 80 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
The honors began Saturday in Lewis’s birthplace of Troy, Ala., with prayers, family recollections, songs and a plea to carry on his legacy of fighting for a more just society. It will end Thursday with a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached.
In between, Lewis will lie in state in two state capitols — Montgomery and Atlanta — and in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, where the nation has paid tribute to past presidents, lawmakers and other distinguished citizens, including civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks in 2005.
Lewis’s crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge 55 years ago was a defining moment for a nation and the young activist. The ceremony on Sunday comes amid a national reckoning over systemic racism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, a black man, and weeks of protests nationwide.
On March 7, 1965, Lewis, then the 25-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, led about 600 protesters in a march across the bridge for civil rights. State troopers beat the demonstrators, and Lewis suffered a cracked skull on what became known as Bloody Sunday.
“I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick,” Lewis said decades later. “I really believe to this day that I saw death.”
Within months, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which was meant to end the obstacles preventing black people from voting.
John Lewis nearly died on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Now it may be renamed for him.
In subsequent years, Lewis has led an annual march of Republicans and Democrats, current and former presidents across the bridge. Most notably, in 2015 on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, he walked across the span with the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama; former president George W. Bush; and many of the foot soldiers of the 1960s movement.
“We just need to open our eyes and our ears and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us,” Obama said. “We know the march is not yet over; we know the race is not yet won. We know reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character requires admitting as much.”
In the days after Lewis’s death, there have been renewed calls for Congress to act on voting rights and name the legislation in Lewis’s honor. In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a crucial component of the landmark law, ruling that Congress had not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when citing certain states for federal oversight.
The House passed legislation in December to restore those protections, but the bill has languished in the GOP-led Senate.
There also have been calls to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge for Lewis. Pettus was a Confederate officer and a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
At the service at Troy University on Saturday, Lewis’s flag-draped casket was carried by men in masks, and attendees were seated six feet apart, a reminder that the country is still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 150,000 Americans, a disproportionate number from low-income, minority communities.
Lewis’s brother Freddie Lewis implored people to continue his legacy by voting. His sister Rosa Mae Tyner recalled that he “lived with the never-ending desire to help others.” Another brother, Henry “Grant” Lewis, said Lewis “would gravitate toward the least of us.”
The late congressman’s young great-nephew, Jaxon Lewis Brewster, called Lewis his “hero.” “It’s up to us to keep his legacy alive,” the 7-year-old said.
Henry Grant Lewis recalled his last conversation with his brother the night before he died. Lewis was, as always, concerned about others, asking how the family was doing and wanting his brother to tell them he’d asked about them.
Henry Grant Lewis also shared an exchange he’d had with his brother when he was first sworn in to Congress. The new lawmaker looked up at his family watching from the gallery above the House floor and flashed his brother a thumbs up. Afterward, Henry Grant Lewis asked his brother what he was thinking when he made that gesture. “I was thinking,” he recalled his brother saying, “this is a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama.”
By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Born in 1940, in Troy, Alabama (Pike County), John Lewis, the son of a sharecropper, helped to lead America out of an era of racism. Through his activism and bravery, Lewis carried the moral authority that few other leaders in U.S. history could claim.
On July 17th he died in Atlanta on the same day that another civil rights legend, Rev. C.T. Vivian, passed away. Lewis was 80 years old. In December 2019, Lewis announced he had stage four pancreatic cancer.
The famous March 7, 1965 video of Lewis being attacked along with 600 other marchers by Alabama State troopers near the Edmund Pettus Bridge is an often reviewed turning point in American social and cultural history. The footage from Selma of ‘Bloody Sunday’ shocked the nation and the world as Blacks in the United States struggles against government authority for basic rights and respect.
The violent confrontation led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965.
The 1965 Selma march was led by John Lewis. Lewis was perhaps the last remaining voice of moral authority from the civil rights era. Voting rights remains a challenge in the U.S. Lewis was on the front lines of that effort which was resisted by white racists in the South attempting to stifle Black voting power for decades. Lewis’ efforts and the increase in Black voting registration of African Americans in the South changed U.S. politics forever. The power of Black voters was first seen nationally with the election of President Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. SNCC was one of six groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington and fought to end racial segregation in America. SNCC launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer campaign for voting rights. The effort was met with violence, murder but it resulted in some of the most historic and consequential changes in the law for human rights in America.
John Lewis was the last living speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington. At 23, Lewis was the youngest speaker to stand behind the same podium Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his historic, “I Have a Dream” speech.
Lewis’ speech was altered by Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph and James Foreman because Lewis’ original draft was critical of President Kennedy. Lewis was viewed as too radical by Randolph in particular and Lewis was critical of the civil rights bill he believed did not go far enough to protect African Americans against police brutality.
“It is true that we support the administration’s civil rights bill,” Lewis said to the crowd of thousands at the March on Washington.
“We support it with great reservations, however. Unless Title III is put in this bill, there is nothing to protect the young children and old women who must face police dogs and fire hoses in the South while they engage in peaceful demonstrations. In its present form, this bill will not protect the citizens of Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear of a police state. It will not protect the hundreds and thousands of people that have been arrested on trumped charges. What about the three young men, SNCC field secretaries in Americus, Georgia, who face the death penalty for engaging in peaceful protest?” the young Lewis said.
In 1986, Lewis was elected to Congress where he became the conscience of the Congress who regularly delivered emotional speeches and moral authority on the House floor.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who announced Lewis’ death, wrote, “Rep. John Lewis: hero, champion and challenge to conscience of the nation. Your visit with the newest voices for justice at the Black Lives Matter mural with Muriel Bowser was wonderful and iconic. Thank you for that final public statement in furtherance of a more perfect union.”
On June 7, appearing thinner but remaining spirited, Lewis visited the street mural in large yellow letters that reads BLACK LIVES MATTER placed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia. The appearance would be one of his last in public.
After the death of George Floyd, Lewis said, “It was so painful, it made me cry. People now understand what the struggle was all about. It’s another step down a very, very long road toward freedom, justice for all humankind.”
“John Lewis was a titan of the civil rights movement whose goodness, faith and bravery transformed our nation. Every day of his life was dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all,” Pelosi wrote on social media on July 18.
“This is a horrible loss for the nation. Words do not seem to properly convey the loss. Serving with him in Congress has been an honor, and we will all miss him and his moral leadership at this time,” wrote Education and Workforce Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) on twitter.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of John Lewis. His life-long mission for justice, equality and freedom left a permanent impression on our nation and world. The NAACP extends our sincerest condolences to his family, and we send prayers of comfort and strength to all,” declared the NAACP on social media.
Lewis received every honorary degree and award imaginable from national and international organizations who recognized his moral authority and commitment to peace and non-violence. In 2011, Lewis received the highest civilian honor in the U.S. from President Obama, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Details of how Lewis will be honored will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Pictured above : 21st Century Youth join thousands in Commemorative March over Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma at the 53rd Anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March on Sunday, March 4, 2018. Shown L to R: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Senator Kamala Harris, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Senator Doug Jones brought greetings at the Unity Breakfast; Rev. William Barber of the Poor’s People Campaign with Rev. Liz Theoharris at the Commemorative March in Selma.; Jamia Jackson, Greene County High Senior, brought greetings at the Unity Breakfast on behalf of 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement.
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee lived up to its billing as the largest continuing commemoration of civil rights activities in the nation. More than 20,000 people marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to celebrate the 53rd. anniversary of the 1965 ‘Bloody Sunday March’ which crystallized the voting rights movement and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Faya Rose Toure, major organizer of the Jubilee said, “We did not come just to celebrate but to rededicate ourselves to the struggle for voting rights, civil rights and human rights in 2018 in our nation.
We need to revitalize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which the U. S. Supreme Count ruled unconstitutional. We need to reverse the many steps taken by states to roll back voting rights and institute voter suppression. We need to redirect the national agenda to be more concerned about Black, Brown and poor people.”
Every one of the more than forty events that made up the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, were crowded with people who came to learn from history and to make new history going forward. All of the mass meetings, breakfasts, panels, dinners, the street festival and other activities were well attended.
Rev. William Barber Jr., and his staff with the ‘Poor Peoples Campaign – A National Moral Revival’ participated in a number of events and used the Jubilee to recruit participants in the revival of the Poor People Campaign. The group is planning forty days of massive civil disobedience, around the issues of poverty, beginning on Mother’s Day, May 13 and continuing into June, to refocus the nation’s attention on the problems and issues facing poor people in our country.
At a mass meeting on Saturday evening at First Baptist Church, Rev. Barber pointed out that due to racialized gerrymandering, Republicans controlled 23 states with 46 U. S. Senators and 170 electoral votes.
“They have a good start to win any national election and they put up extremist candidates who win by cheating through gerrymandering and suppressing the vote. There was no discussion by Republicans or Democrats in the 2016 Presidential campaign of voter suppression, the need to restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act or the continuing problems of persistent poverty in urban and rural areas. The Poor Peoples Campaign is designed to bring these issues forward into the national consciousness for discussion and resolution,” said Barber.
At the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast on Sunday, at Wallace Community College many speakers discussed the importance of reviving and revitalizing the Voting Rights Act to prevent voter suppression.
Senator Kamala Harris of California was the breakfast keynote speaker. She is also considered a possible Democratic candidate for President in 2020. Harris said that the people who marched in Selma in 1965 were “patriots fighting for the ideals of the America we love. They laid the foundation for us to follow. Selma laid a blueprint when they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and paved the way for the bridges we must build to the future.
“We must address adversity and inequalities of our time. We need inspiration from the DACA children, from reports that show continuing problems of home-ownership, employment and poverty in America, and actions of the NRA promoting gun violence among our children. We must fight for justice and against injustice in each generation. Do not despair – roll up our sleeves and go to work,” she said.
Senator Doug Jones in his talk said that the lessons of Selma, show the best of America. “We must continue to work for stronger public education for all of our children, health care for all people, keeping our rural hospitals open and other steps that will unify our people.” Congresswoman Terry Sewell of Alabama made similar comments.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California called for the impeachment of President Trump in her remarks. “ I come to Selma, almost every year for the Jubilee, it keeps me grounded. I will not be intimidated by the person in the White House. It is clear from what he says and what he does that he has a mental illness and is unstable. He mocked a disabled journalist, he called Carly Fiorina ugly, he said to grab women by their private parts. He is unfit to be President by temperament and policy. Get ready for Impeachment No. 45,” she shouted.
Rev. Jesse Jackson said that we cannot allow voter suppression and voter apathy to hold us back. “We must register every high school student, when they turn 18; we must register the 4 million Black voters in the South who are still unregistered; we must get the 2.5 million Black voters in the South, who are registered but did not vote in the last election to wake up and vote.”
More on the Bridge Crossing Jubilee events and program next week.
By Monique Judge, The Root
Congressman John Lewis and Bennie Thompson
Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) announced last Thursday that they are skipping last Saturday’s opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson because Donald Trump will be in attendance—something they consider to be “an insult” to the black heroes commemorated there.
Thompson and Lewis issued a joint statement that said, “President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.” According to its website, the museum “shares the stories of a Mississippi movement that changed the world” and “promotes a greater understanding of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and its impact by highlighting the strength and sacrifices of its people.”
The website continues, ”Visitors will witness the freedom struggle in eight interactive galleries that show the systematic oppression of black Mississippians and their fight for equality that transformed the state and nation. Seven of the galleries encircle a central space called “This Little Light of Mine.” There, a dramatic sculpture glows brighter and the music of the Movement swells as visitors gather.”
President Donald Trump was the lead person spreading the lie that President Barack Obama, America’s first Black president, was not born in the U. S. President Trump also equated Ku Klux Klan members and Neo-Nazis to people protesting the evils of racism during the deadly White supremacist marches in Charlottesville, Va. last August.
Repeatedly, in front of the nation, he has flagrantly displayed racial insensitivities; even with his most recent support of Senate Candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, not only an accused pedophile, but a man who has said America was last great during slavery.
Since his inauguration, Trump and his appointee Attorney General Jeff Sessions have careful demolished important policies put in place during the Obama administration for the purpose of preventing police brutality and other issues of racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
In addition, President Trump has claimed massive voter fraud in America, a claim that experts say is patently false.
These are just a handful of the reasons that civil rights leaders opposed the president’s attendance at the Dec. 10 opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. They argue that the museum is like hallowed ground that celebrates those who risked their lives to fight against everything that Trump appears to embrace – despite his words to the contrary.
“President Trump’s presence at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is not a show of respect. It’s merely a photo op,” says Derrick Johnson, president/CEO of the NAACP. “I live in Mississippi and its civil rights leaders are my mentors, sheroes, and heroes. I cannot sit silently alongside a man who has used the power of his office to turn back the clock on hard-won rights.”
In response to the announcement from Lewis and Thompson, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the president in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.”
Lewis is an icon of the civil rights movement for his work in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was at the lead of the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in March 1965. He also participated in sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee and in the Freedom Rides that ended in a mass arrest in Jackson, Mississippi. So it is fair to say that John Lewis is one of the civil rights heroes recognized in the museum.
SELMA, AL, The Bridge Crossing Jubilee and S.O.S will commemorate the 52nd Anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with a series of activities including: A re-enactment of the signing of the Act, a scavenger hunt for school supplies that will require students to find voting rights history facts to earn various school supplies; and a recommitment service to reignite the movement to secure Voting Rights.
All citizens young and old are encouraged to attend this fun but important event on Aug 6, 2017 at 4pm-6pm at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the Montgomery side. This historic site is where marchers were beaten on March 7, 1965 as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery to demand the right to vote for millions of disenfranchised Americans. This historic event is celebrated annually in the month of March at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee event.
“There will be little to celebrate if we don’t unite to restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act”, said Senator Hank Sanders. , a co founder of the BCJ. The US Supreme Court gutted the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the act in 2013. S.O.S and BCJ lead a ride to revive Section 5 last month to support a bill to restore Section 5 of the act. The sunrise sunset commemoration on Aug 6, 2017 is important in the struggle to revive Sec 5. For more information, please call 334-526-2626.
Nearly 50 people of all ages and economic statuses made history in Selma, Alabama, last week. They completed a 5-day intensive training in Kingian nonviolence at the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation. Black, white, young and old, college and high school students, citizens severely challenged by poverty and addiction, seniors, teachers and workers received their certificates with great pride at the Center located in plain view of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named to honor the Grand Dragon of the KKK in 1943. The Bridge is also known for the blood shed on March 7, 1965 as marchers marched to protest the killing of Jimmy Lee Jackson and to demand voting rights. Ironically, Selma is said to be the most violent city in Alabama. The training was very much needed, said Senator Sanders, co-founder of the Center.
The workshop was led by Dr. Bernard Lafayette, a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. Lafayette is a living legend of the Civil Rights Movement. He came to Selma in 1962 and organized youth to lay the groundwork for the Voting Rights Movement. He was nearly beaten to death the same night James Meredith was killed in Mississippi. He talked to Dr. King 4 hours before he was killed and then he left for Washington, D.C. to help organize the Poor People’s March. As a survivor of the freedom rides in Mississippi, he has become internationally known for his teachings of Kingian nonviolence.
For more information about future nonviolence training contact : Attorney Ainka Jackson at (334) 526-4539.
By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Amid the celebration and commemoration at this weekend’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday March” in 1965, there was a demand for “Full Restoration of the Voting Rights Act” by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina Repairers of the Breach and Forward Together Movement. Rev. Barber’s demand was echoed by other speakers and was the central issue in many of the workshops and programs of the Jubilee.
In addition to the workshops, there was a parade, golf tournament, dinners, a unity breakfast, street festival, and the march reenactment on Sunday afternoon. Ten thousand or more marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge behind a host of local and national leaders, including: Rev. Jesse Jackson of PUSH, Charles Steele of SCLC, Rev. Barber, Faya Rose Toure, Senator Hank Sanders, Rev. Mark Thompson of Sirius 127 Radio and many others. The Masons of Alabama turned out in force and in uniform, to participate in the march.
The weekend culminated in Monday’s “Slow-Ride from Selma to Montgomery” with a caravan of 35 vehicles including a Greene County School bus, carrying the members of the Eutaw High Ninth Grade Academy. The caravan was met by local Montgomery leaders for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol.
Prior to the re-enactment march, Attorney Faya Rose Toure pointed out that the Edmund Pettus Bridge was named for an Alabama Klu Klux Klan leader and that the name should be changed to honor Ms. Amelia Boyton Robinson and the Voting Rights Foot-soldiers who won the 1965 VRA.
Rev. William Barber spoke many times, as ketnote for the Sunday morning breakfast, at Brown’s Chapel Church before the march reenactment, on a national radio broadcast from the Dallas County Courthouse on Sunday evening and at the rally at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery at the end of the slow-ride.
Rev. Barber made similar points in each speech. At the breakfast, we invoked the martyrs of the civil and voting rights movement – Dr. King, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels, James Reid, Viola Luizzo, and un-named others, whose blood he said was crying out to people today to continue the work of restoring the Voting Rights Act, fighting voter suppression in all its forms, and building a more beloved community involving Blacks, Whites, Latinos and all religious faiths.
He said he had come to Selma, ”not for the nostalgia of history but to listen for the ‘blood’ that was shed and soaked into the concrete of the bridge and the wooden pews of the churches.” Barber said that America was headed by an egotistical narsisistic man, “but this is not the first time that a racist was in the White House. Steve Bannon is not the first white Supremacist to be in high places. Trump is not the first President to hold these views. Many of his predacessors felt the same way.”
“On June 25, 2013”, Barber said, “the U. S. Supreme Court in the Holder vs. Shelby County case, overturned Section 4 and nullified Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Within an hour of the destruction of pre-clearence of voting changes in the Shelby decision, Texas approved a voter ID law and other changes; two months later, North Carolina passed voter suppression laws.
Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other Southern states also passed voter ID and other voter suppression measures. Voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive.”
“Twenty-one states adopted 47 regressive voting changes within a year of the Shelby decision, The 2016 Presidential election was the first in half a century without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.
868 fewer polling places were allowed in Black and Brown communities around the nation. In the 25 Presidential debates, both Republican and Democratic, no mention was made of the issue of voter suppression in our communities,” said Rev. Barber.
“Long before Russia interfered in our elections, voter suppression had hacked and distorted the system,” said Barber. He pointed out that in Wisconsin 300,000 voters were disenfranchised due to the voter ID requirements and Trump defeated Hillary by 20,000 votes in that state.
Senator Hank Sanders spoke to the problems of voter suppression, voter ID, Legislative gerrymandering in Alabama, Packing and stacking Black voters in majority Black districts. He also recounted the history of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions role in initiating voter suppression in Alabama with voter fraud trials of civil rights activists.
Rev. Barber said, “ the 11 former Confederate states have 171 electoral votes, you only need 99 more to have the 270 needed to win the electoral college. These states have 26 U. S. senators, the extremists need only 25 more Senators to control the Senate which they are doing now. They have the House of Representatives, statehouses, county courthouses, we have work to do to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.”
As part of the evening radio broadcast and rally at the Dallas County Courthouse, Rev. Barber displayed maps, which showed the concentration of poverty, child poverty, low wages-right-to-work states, states that did not expand Medicaid, overlapped with the states that adopted new voter suppression measures. Most of these maps showed concentration of these problems in the rural South. Rev. Barber also displayed a map of states and areas with a concentration of protestant Evangelical Christians and once again the overlap was clear. He called this a “mis-teaching of faith and a false interpretation of the Bible”.
At the rally in Montgomery, speaker after speaker blasted the voter suppression, racial gerrymandering and limits to voting by the people. Rev. Barber said, ”We must get ready for a 100 days of disruption and civil disobedience in our state houses and in Congress to work for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Different state organizations should be preparing to go to Washington, D. C. and non-violently disrupt the process qnd win back our full voting rights.
Shown above : Albert Turner, Albert Turner leading march across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965; Turner is second row with Bob Mance behind Rev. Hosea Williams and John Lewis.. Albert Turner leading march across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965; Turner is second row with Bob Mance behind Rev. Hosea Williams and John Lewis. Jeff Sessions, Albert Turner displays redistricting map of Perry County to his wife Evelyn and assosicaite Spencer Hogue, Jr. The Three were indicted, tried and found not guilty of 72 charges of voter fraud.,Alabama State Troopers give two minute warning to marchers on Bloody Sunday; Albert Turner is standing in second row with white cap.
December 10, 2016
The Board of Directors of the ANSC and the Steering Committee of SOS are issuing this joint statement in opposition to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nomination of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to be the next Attorney General of the United States. We urge the United States Senate not to confirm the nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to become Attorney General.
We are compelled to issue this statement, because as citizens and residents of Alabama, we are intimately knowlegable and keenly aware of the harm that Senator Sessions has brought to our people and our state. We are issuing this statement as a warning to people in other states of the United States that Jeff Sessions is singularly unfit, manifestly unqualified and totally insensitive to serve as the chief law enforcement agent for our great nation.
We are especially concerned that as Attorney General, he will be charged with enforcing civil rights, voting rights, and human rights laws, as well as being the primary caretaker of our criminal justice system. A criminal justice system and the policing mechanisms that support it are in urgent need of reform. By education, temperament and actions over the past 40 years, Jeff Sessions has shown himself to be unfit, unqualified and insensitive to serve in this critical position.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (Jeff) III was born in Selma on December 24, 1946. He grew up and attended schools in Wilcox County, Alabama, before school integration. He attended Huntington College and University of Alabama law school, graduating in 1973. He was raised in one of the poorest counties in America, with an 80% Black majority population, during the time of “Jim Crow” and before the changes brought by the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing he has said or done in the 40 years of his professional life indicates any effort on his part to re-examine, reconsider or modify his cultural world view of “white supremacy” into which he was born, bred and operates, up to and including his current service in the United States Senate.
We are especially concerned with his selective prosecution in 1985 of the “Perry County Three” – Albert Turner, Evelyn Turner and Spencer Hoage, for alleged voter fraud in connect with absentee ballots. Jeff Sessions was the U. S. Attorney in the Southern District of Alabama (Mobile). He indicted the three on 72 charges of voter fraud and mail fraud, since most of the absentee ballots were mailed in to the Circuit Clerk’s office.
Albert Turner was an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King as State Director of the SCLC in Alabama. Turner also worked as the Manager of the Southwest Alabama Farmers Cooperative (SWAFCA). Turner can be seen in photos of Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral, leading the mule train carrying the casket. Turner can also be prominently seen in the photographs of the Bloody Sunday 1965 Voting Rights March. He is in the second line of the march directly behind John Lewis. Turner helped to plan the March as a reaction to the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Marion (Perry Co.) Alabama a few weeks prior. Turner worked in Perry County and throughout the Alabama Black Belt registering people to vote, doing voter education and GOTV work, including encouraging the homebound to vote absentee.
Sessions prosecution of the trio was an act of voter suppression directed at reducing the turnout and involvement of Black voters in elections throughout the Black Belt. The selection of Turner, his wife, and Spencer Hoage, outspoken advocates for civil rights, voting rights and economic justice for poor and Black people, was not an accidental but a calculated act by Sessions to intimate voters in the Black Belt and the state of Alabama. Federal prosecutors in other Alabama jurisdictions following Sessions lead initiated other similar selective prosecutions of civil rights and community leaders in Greene, Hale, Pickens and surrounding counties.
Ultimately, because of dedicated lawyers and community support, the Perry County Three were acquitted of all 72 charges that Sessions tried to bring against them.
Later in 1986, President Reagan nominated Sessions for a seat on the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. At Sessions’ confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, four Department of Justice lawyers who had worked with Sessions testified that he made racially offensive remarks. One of those lawyers, J. Gerald Hebert, testified that Sessions had referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” (Sessions said he was referring to their support of the Sandinistas) and that these organizations did more harm than good by trying to force civil rights “down the throats of people.”
Hebert, a civil rights lawyer, said that he did not consider Sessions a racist, and that Sessions “has a tendency sometimes to just say something, and I believe these comments were along that vein. Hebert also said that Sessions had called a white civil rights attorney “maybe” a “disgrace to his race.” Sessions said he did not recall making that remark and he did not believe it.
Thomas Figures, a Black Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot”. Sessions later said that the comment was not serious, but did apologize for it, saying that he considered the Klan to be “a force for hatred and bigotry.” Figures also testified that on one occasion, when the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, sent the office instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close, Figures and Sessions “had a very spirited discussion regarding how the case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, ‘I wish I could decline on all of them,'” by which Figures said Sessions meant civil rights cases generally.
Figures (who was the brother of the late State Senator Michael Figures, a founding member and officer of ANSC) also said that Sessions had called him “boy,” which Sessions denied. He also testified that “Mr. Sessions admonished me to ‘be careful what you say to white folks.” In 1992, Figures was charged with attempting to bribe a witness by offering a $50,000 to a convicted drug dealer who was to testify against his client. Figures claimed the charge was retaliation for his role in blocking the Sessions nomination. Sessions denied this, saying that he recused himself from the case. Figures was ultimately acquitted. We mention this to show that Sessions has a vindictive attitude to those who oppose his view of unbridled white supremacy.
Albert Turner also traveled to Washington to testify in opposition to Sessions nomination to a Federal judgeship in Alabama because of his selective and unjust prosecution of voting rights activists.
On June 5, 1986, the Committee voted 10–8 against recommending the nomination to the Senate floor, with Republican Senators Charles
Mathias of Maryland and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting with the Democrats. It then split 9–9 on a vote to send Sessions’ nomination to the Senate floor with no recommendation, this time with Specter in support. A majority was required for the nomination to proceed. The pivotal votes against Sessions came from his home state’s Democratic Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama. Although Heflin had previously backed Sessions, he began to oppose Sessions after hearing testimony, concluding that there were “reasonable doubts” over Sessions’ ability to be “fair and impartial.” The nomination was withdrawn on July 31, 1986.
Sessions became only the second nominee to the federal judiciary in 48 years whose nomination was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was quoted then as saying that the Senate on occasion had been insensitive to the rights and reputation of nominees.
There are some who say in the thirty years since his work as a U. S. Attorney in Mobile that Jeff Sessions has mellowed and changed his views allowing him to be elected Attorney General of the State of Alabama and U. S. Senator. We do not think so and we list some of his recent actions during the past ten years in the U. S. Senate to show that he has not tempered and changed his deeply held white supremacist and white privileged views.
Sessions supported the major legislative efforts of the George W. Bush administration, including the 2001 and 2003 tax cut packages, the Iraq War, and a proposed national amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He opposed the establishment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the 2009 stimulus bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he opposed all three of President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court.
More specifically, during the second Obama term in office, Sessions:
• Led opposition to a bipartisan effort in 2016 to ease sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders;
• Co-sponsored the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act, which would prohibit the use of federal funds to implement, administer, or enforce HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule;
• Voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor and called Justice Sotomayor unsuitable for the bench due to her past affiliation with a civil rights organization;
• Voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell;
• Voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act;
• Voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act;
• Voted against reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act;
• Opposed President Obama’s 2012 Executive Action on immigration which granted deportation relief and work permits to thousands of undocumented immigrants (DACA); and
• Described the Voting Rights Act as a ‘piece of intrusive legislation.’ in supporting the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder, which ruled Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, which “gutted” the core enforcement of the VRA.
We feel the nomination by President-elect Donald Trump of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States is a dangerous step, which will undermine the role of the U.S. Justice Department as the leading force for enforcement of civil rights, voting rights, womens rights, immigrant rights and all laws promoting justice in our nation.
We, as fellow citizens of Alabama, call upon the Senate Judiciary Committee and the U. S. Senate to once again reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions as unfit, disqualified by his own deeply held beliefs and insensitive to the needs and aspirations of all Americans for non-discrimination and simple justice in their lives.
We urge everyone who feels that Jeff Sessions should not be confirmed to be Attorney General of the United States communicate your views and concerns to Congress, the press and your fellow citizens, as we have done.
For more information contact:
• Ms. Shelley Fearson, ANSC State Coordinator, Montgomery, Alabama
• John Zippert, ANSC State President, 205/657-0273
• Senator Hank Sanders, SOS Steering Committee, : 205/526-4531
Congressman John Lewis and colleagues including Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-7) as part of sit-in on House floor;
John Lewis crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma 1965 Washington (CNN)
Democrats decided to end their day-long sit-in protest on the House floor over gun control Thursday, June 23, 2016.
Rep. John Lewis, who launched the sit-in Wednesday morning that eventually drew 170 lawmakers, lit up social media, and infuriated House Republicans — but spurred no legislative action — said the fight was not over.
“We must come back here on July 5th [when Congress returns to session] more determined than ever before,” Lewis said.
“We are going to win,” he told supporters on the Capitol steps after the sit-in was halted. “The fight is not over. This is just one step of when we come back here on July the 5th we’re going to continue to push, to pull, to stand up, and if necessary, to sit down. So don’t give up, don’t give in. Keep the faith, and keep your eyes on the prize.” He also tweeted, “We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.”
Lawmakers said that during the July 4th break, they would take the issue to their districts.”We are going back to our congressional districts — we are going to engage our constituents on this subject, and we will not allow this body feel as comfortable as in the past,” Rep. Jim Clyburn said. “On July 5, we will return, and at that time we will be operating on a new sense of a purpose.”
Republicans had earlier tried to shut down the sit-in, but the Democrats’ protest over the lack of action on gun control lasted for more than 24 hours. House Democrats were looking for votes to expand background checks and ban gun sales to those on the no-fly watch list.
In the middle of the night, the House GOP had sought to end the extraordinary day of drama by swiftly adjourning for a recess that will last through July 5.
The Republican move was an effort to terminate a protest that began Wednesday morning in reaction to the massacre in Orlando when Democrats took over the House floor and tried to force votes on gun control. But throughout the morning Thursday, 10-20 Democrats, including House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi for much of the time, remained on the floor.
At one point, a police officer told the Democrats that they would be conducting a daily security sweep. “I’d ask that you clear the floor while that happens,” the officer said.
Pelosi responded: “That’s not going to happen” and the security check then took place involving five agents and a dog as the House Democratic leader continued speaking, undeterred. Pelosi said the sit-in would continue “until hell freezes over.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday accused the Democrats of throwing the House into “chaos” and threatening democracy. He said Republicans were looking at all options to stop the sit-in, if the Democrats continued it.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, also criticized the protest and said it was a setback to her efforts to build bipartisan support for her legislation that would ban gun sales to people on a list of possible terrorists.
“It is not helpful to have had the sit-in on the House side because that made it partisan, and I’ve worked very hard to keep this bipartisan, so that setback our efforts somewhat,” she said of her bill, which won support from a majority of senators Thursday but fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance.
Although Republicans leaders had shut off House cameras, Democrats continued Thursday morning to livestream their activities on the floor. Rep. Mark Takano plugged his phone into an external power source, set it on top of a chair facing the podium, and was streaming on his Facebook page even though he’d left the chamber to appear on CNN’s “New Day.”
The sit-in became a social media happening. Tweets sent by Reps. Scott Peters and Eric Swalwell with Periscopes were viewed over 1 million times and the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor were tweeted over 1.4 million times, according to Twitter.
Shortly after 8:00 a.m. Florida Rep. Ted Deutch gave an impassioned speech on the floor.”I am tired, I am cold, and I am hungry. Let me remind everyone watching how privileged I am to be tired, cold, and hungry,” he said. “These are feelings that I am privileged to have because so many will never feel that again,” referring to victims of gun violence.
Overall, more than 170 Democrats took part in the sit in over the 24 hours, lawmakers said.