50th Anniversary, “Bloody Sunday”

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SELMA, AL (18 NEWS / NBC ) – Saturday, March 7 will mark the 50th anniversary of what’s known as “Bloody Sunday.” On that day in 1965, hundreds of demonstrators attempted to march 50 miles from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol building in Montgomery, to demand the right to vote for black Americans.

When the marchers reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state and local law enforcement officials attacked them on horse back, with billy clubs and tear gas. More than a dozen people were injured, including future congressman John Lewis.

Two days after bloody Sunday, ministers of all faiths came to Selma for a second march, at the request of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “There may be come tear gas ahead. I say to you this afternoon that I would rather die on the highways of Alabama than make a butchery of my conscience,” said Dr. King.

Nearly three thousand people of all races marched in defiance to a restraining order by the federal court prohibiting the march. The demonstrators were met again by Alabama state troopers when they reached the bottom of the Edmund Pettus bridge. The marchers prayed, then turned around and left, avoiding another confrontation. That march became know as “Turnaround Tuesday.”

On March 17, Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. ruled in favor of the marchers. His ruling stated that “the law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups.”

On March 21, more than three thousand people of all races, including ministers of all faiths left Selma for Montgomery arriving at the state capitol building on March 25. The demonstrations helped lead to the passage of the voting rights act of 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law on August 6, 1965.

On Saturday, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will join civil rights leaders in Selma, Alabama to remember the 600 marchers that were attacked that day.

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