Vice President Kamala Harris to join in marking anniversary of Bloody Sunday on Alabama bridge

Harris to "honor the legacy of the civil rights movement" and "address the ongoing work to achieve justice for all," the White House says

SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to be among those marking the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the day Alabama law officers attacked Civil Rights demonstrators on the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

The demonstrators were beaten by officers as they tried to march across Alabama on March 7, 1965, in support of voting rights. A march across the bridge, which is a highlight of the commemoration in Selma every year, is planned for Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s march is among dozens of events during the annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which began Thursday and culminates Sunday. The events commemorate Bloody Sunday and the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Ben Jones walks through the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Selma, Ala. ( AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

“During her speech, the Vice President will honor the legacy of the civil rights movement, address the ongoing work to achieve justice for all, and encourage Americans to continue the fight for fundamental freedoms that are under attack throughout the country,” the White House said in announcing her visit.

Harris joined the march in 2022, calling the site hallowed ground and giving a speech calling on Congress to defend democracy by protecting people’s right to vote. On that anniversary, Harris spoke of marchers whose “peaceful protest was met with crushing violence.”

“They were kneeling when the state troopers charged,” she said then. “They were praying when the billy clubs struck.”

Images of the violence at the bridge stunned Americans, which helped galvanize support for passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law struck down barriers prohibiting Black people from voting.

A vehicle passes by the town welcome sign, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Selma, Ala. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat of South Carolina who is leading a pilgrimage to Selma, said he is seeking to “remind people that we are celebrating an event that started this country on a better road toward a more perfect union,” but the right to vote is still not guaranteed.

Clyburn sees Selma as the nexus of the 1960s movement for voting rights, at a time when there currently are efforts to scale back those rights.

“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 became a reality in August of 1965 because of what happened on March 7th of 1965,” Clyburn said.

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“We are at an inflection point in this country,” he added. “And hopefully this year’s march will allow people to take stock of where we are.”

Clyburn said he hopes the weekend in Alabama would bring energy and unity to the civil rights movement, as well as benefit the city of Selma.

“We need to do something to develop the waterfront, we need to do something that bring the industry back to Selma,” Clyburn said. “We got to do something to make up for them having lost that military installation down there that provided all the jobs. All that goes away, there’s nothing to keep young people engaged in developing their communities.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland also is expected to attend the event in Selma.

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