Organizers calling theirs the “second” Selma to Montgomery march are taking the 47th anniversary of the original event to march more than 50 miles in protest of Alabama’s voter ID and immigration laws.
Members of sponsor groups said in a Wednesday news conference that they want to bring national attention to what they see as voter suppression in Alabama and the South, failures in public education, attacks on workers’ rights and the state’s recent toughest-in-the-nation immigration law.
Sponsors include the national and local AFL-CIO, the Alabama Education Association, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“There’s a lot at stake out here,” said Joe Reed, former associate executive secretary of the AEA. “We’re under attack in every respect.”
The organizers contend that the voter ID law is suppressing the right to vote for poorer Alabamians, while the immigration law is causing illegal immigrants — along with their legal children who organizers say will comprise a new voting base in coming years — to self-deport.
Ken Johnson, Southern regional director for AFL-CIO, said Alabama has become ground zero for the national fight.
“It’s just terrible that we have to re-fight this fight, but fight it we will,” Johnson said, referring to the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, which culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act that outlawed discrimination at the polls.
The events begin on Thursday with workshops and educational summits throughout the weekend and a festival on Saturday. On Sunday, organizers will recreate the “Bloody Sunday” crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where in 1965 several hundred peaceful marchers protesting the shooting death of Jimmy Lee Jackson were assaulted by law enforcement.
Organizers expect several hundred demonstrators to march about 10 miles per day starting on Sunday after the bridge crossing. They plan on arriving in Montgomery on March 9, when they will hold a rally at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Alabama Federation of Republican Women president Elois Zeanah said Alabama’s immigration law is accomplishing what it was intended to do — lower unemployment and reduce the amount of taxpayer money going to illegal immigrants. She said voter ID laws have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional.
“Their protests are designed to give illegal aliens sanctuary in Alabama and to allow them to vote,” Zeanah said. “And I don’t think they’re going to be successful.” (AP)