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Monday, 8 March 2021

Biker crew gathers in Selma for Bloody Sunday commemoration honoring late Rep. John Lewis and civil rights giants brutally beaten in 1965 after Biden marked 56th anniversary by signing executive order to make voting easier

 Bikers with the RedLiners Motorcycle Club from Atlanta gathered in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Sunday to commemorate a pivotal day in the civil rights struggle that became known as Bloody Sunday.

The bikers gathered in front of the Welcome to Historic Selma sign for the annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee - which marks the 56th anniversary of the day law enforcement officers brutally beat civil rights marchers on the bridge.

This year's event was the first without civil rights icons Rep. John Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020 and were honored during the commemoration.Bikers with the RedLiners Motorcycle Club from Atlanta gathered in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

Bikers with the RedLiners Motorcycle Club from Atlanta gathered in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

The bikers gathered in front of the Welcome to Historic Selma sign for the annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee

The bikers gathered in front of the Welcome to Historic Selma sign for the annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee

RedLiners Motorcycle Club from Atlanta gathered in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Sunday

RedLiners Motorcycle Club from Atlanta gathered in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Sunday

Biden marks the 56th Anniversary Of Bloody Sunday
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Activists gathered virtually and in person to continue the fight for voting rights. President Joe Biden spoke virtually from a large screen during the annual Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast, which was attended by Martin Luther King III.

President Biden also signed a new executive order that was announced during a recorded address during the 56th commemoration of Bloody Sunday.

'Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have it counted,' Biden said during the unity breakfast. 

'If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.' 

Rep. Terri A. Sewell, left, and Martin Luther King III listen to President Joe Biden on Sunday

Rep. Terri A. Sewell, left, and Martin Luther King III listen to President Joe Biden on Sunday

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks virtually during the annual Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks virtually during the annual Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast

Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks virtually during the annual Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast
Sen. Jon Ossoff speaks virtually during the annual Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast

Sen. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff speak virtually during the annual Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast

Black veterans hold signs during the  Edmund Pettus Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama

Black veterans hold signs during the  Edmund Pettus Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama

The new executive order directs federal agencies to take a series of steps to promote voting access, a move that comes as congressional Democrats press for a sweeping voting and elections bill to counter efforts to restrict voting access. 

In 1965, about 600 civil rights protesters led by Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams marched out of Selma on U.S. Highway 80 until they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and encountered a wall of law enforcement officers.

Cops began beat protesters with batons, fired tear gas and charged the protesters on horseback, leaving them bloody, unconscious and severely injured - creating national support  for the Selma Voting Rights Campaign. 

Bloody Sunday became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn hopes to enact the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect against racial discrimination and voter suppression, PBS reported. It would strengthen protections granted under the Voting Rights Act.  

Footage of the Bloody Sunday beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Footage of the Bloody Sunday beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

People walk across the histroric Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Sunday

People walk across the histroric Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Sunday

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, center, talks with those gathered on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of 'Bloody Sunday' in 2012

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, center, talks with those gathered on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of 'Bloody Sunday' in 2012

Many speakers throughout the day's events emphasized the need for continued activism to protect voting access.

'Voter suppression is still alive and well,' said U.S. Rep. Teri Sewell, a Democrat who represents the 7th Congressional District which includes Selma. 'It reminds us that progress is elusive and every generation must fight and fight again.'

Sewell spoke during a video that featured comments from activists, mayors, members of Congress and others about the historic anniversary. 

Later, organizers played video footage of activists, many who had been part of the original Blood Sunday events in 1965, crossing the bridge once again. 

They wore masks and in keeping with social distancing requirements designed to stop the coronavirus, spread out across the bridge as they walked.


The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events were held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast was held as a drive-in event. The outdoor event included some in-person speakers such as Rev. Bernard LaFayette, and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter. Cliff Albright, one of the group's founders, spoke about the continued need to fight for voter access.

'The movement is not over,' he said as people in their cars honked in support. 'What we are asking folks today is for us to commit to that moment, for us to commit to this movement.'

Former state Senator Hank Sanders, one of the founders of the annual celebration, said: 'Those of us who are still living, particularly the young, need to take up the challenge and go forward because there is still so much to be done.'

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

Boynton was arrested for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia, launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. 

Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation.

His case inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961 - a group of young activists who went on bus rides throughout the South to test whether court-ruled desegregation was actually being enforced. They faced violence from white mobs and arrest by local authorities.

Organizers acknowledged the fallen civil rights leaders and planned to lay wreaths at the bridge in their honor.

The march across the Selma bridge was sparked by events in nearby Marion, where a black man had been killed by a white Alabama state trooper during peaceful protests for voting rights. 

Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, was shot while trying to protect his mother from being hurt and died eight days later. In response, activists in Marion and Selma gathered for a march on March 7, their goal the state capital in Montgomery.

Although the Jackson case occurred in 1965, it has particular resonance in 2021 as the state of Minnesota prepares to try former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death George Floyd, an African American. 

Floyd died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee onto Floyd´s neck while Floyd was held face-down on the ground in handcuffs, saying he couldn´t breathe. 

Body camera footage indicates Chauvin´s knee was on Floyd´s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Jury selection begins Monday.

Barack Obama, center, walks as he holds hands with Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was beaten during 'Bloody Sunday'

Barack Obama, center, walks as he holds hands with Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was beaten during 'Bloody Sunday'

Civil rights activist C.T. Vivian, who was honored on Sunday, sits at his home in Atlanta in 2012. Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of John Lewis, as well as the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020

Civil rights activist C.T. Vivian, who was honored on Sunday, sits at his home in Atlanta in 2012. Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of John Lewis, as well as the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020

Civil rights figures lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the recreation of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Selma, Alabama in 1990

Civil rights figures lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the recreation of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Selma, Alabama in 1990

Civil rights activists and Southern Christian Leadership Conference members from left, Ralph Worrell, Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr., C.T. Vivian and Frederick Moore

Civil rights activists and Southern Christian Leadership Conference members from left, Ralph Worrell, Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr., C.T. Vivian and Frederick Moore

A state trooper swings a billy club at John Lewis, right foreground, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

A state trooper swings a billy club at John Lewis, right foreground, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016

Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016

Coretta Scott King walks arm-in-arm with Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Joseph Lowery, second from right, in Selma, Ala.

Coretta Scott King walks arm-in-arm with Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Joseph Lowery, second from right, in Selma, Ala.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, pictured, shields his eyes from a television light during a news conference about COVID-19

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, pictured, shields his eyes from a television light during a news conference about COVID-19

President Joe Biden speaks virtually at the breakfast in Selma, Alabama, and announced a new executive order

President Joe Biden speaks virtually at the breakfast in Selma, Alabama, and announced a new executive order

President Joe Biden signs order to make it easier to vote
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Biden's order announced on Sunday includes several modest provisions. 

It directs federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, calls on the heads of agencies to come up with plans to give federal employees time off to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, and pushes an overhaul of the government´s Vote.gov website.

Democrats are attempting to solidify support for House Resolution 1, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process. It was approved Wednesday on a near party-line vote, 220-210.

The voting rights bill includes provisions to restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes.

Democrats say the bill will help stifle voter suppression attempts, while Republicans have cast the bill as unwanted federal interference in states´ authority to conduct their own elections.

The bill's fate is far from certain in the closely divided Senate. Conservative groups have undertaken a $5 million campaign to try persuade moderate Senate Democrats to oppose rule changes needed to pass the measure.

With his executive order, Biden is looking to turn the spotlight on the issue and is using the somber commemoration of Bloody Sunday to make the case that much is at stake.

'In 2020 - with our very democracy on the line - even in the midst of a pandemic - more Americans voted than ever before,' Biden said. 

'Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting - we saw an unprecedented insurrection on our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6th. A never-before-seen effort to ignore, undermine and undo the will of the people.'

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