SELMA, Ala., March 7 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today joined U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and other civil rights pioneers on the 50th anniversary of an historic civil rights march that led to enactment of the Voting Rights Act.
“In 1965, against racist legalized violence, incredibly brave men and women put their lives on the line to demand that all Americans, regardless of their color, have the right to vote. And they won. When people stand together for justice, nothing is impossible,” Sanders said.
President Barack Obama and members of Congress gathered at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the events of Bloody Sunday in 1965, when baton-wielding police beat Lewis, the future Georgia congressman, and other peaceful protesters.
Later that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which protected voters from discrimination until the Supreme Court two years ago invalidated a key portion of the landmark law.
Sanders said he hoped the anniversary of the march will be a catalyst for Congress to undo that 2013 court decision.
“What Bloody Sunday was about was showing the entire country and the entire world how far some of the racist officials in Alabama would go to prevent African-Americans from participating the political process and from voting,” Sanders said. “What happened on that bridge that day was a huge step forward for democracy in America. But what is happening right now – not just in the South but all over this country – are efforts by Republican governors and Republican legislatures to make it harder for African-Americans, for low-income people and for senior citizens to vote.”
The election of Obama, the first African-American president, is a sign of the nation’s progress in the past half century, Sanders said. “But we also know that much more needs to be done. Today, African American unemployment is double the national average while African American household income is $17,000 less. The struggle for racial and economic justice continues,” Sanders said.