Protesters in Selma, Alabama who are fed up with the state’s heavy handed approach to voter ID legislation and immigration reform are today finishing a week-long march meant to bring attention to the two issues.
The march was organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to help commemorate the 47th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, an iconic moment in the history of the civil rights movement where hundreds of protesters were beaten by state and local police. The incident is arguably remembered as the emotional peak of the civil rights movement.
Rep. John Lewis was 25-years-old when he was beaten on Bloody Sunday and suffered a fractured skull. He spoke to CNN this week about why this year’s march was important. “It’s unjust to treat the Latino population or any population the way people are being treated,” Lewis said, referencing Alabama’s HB 56, considered the nation’s toughest immigration enforcement law. “In the state of Alabama and in so many other states in America, Hispanics, Latinos live in constant fear.”
Alabama lawmakers are trying to “turn back time,” SEIU Executive Vice President Gerry Hudson wrote in a recent editorial. “HB 56 has legalized racial profiling, terrorized persons of color regardless of their legal status, frightened children, entrapped foreigners and harmed the state’s economy.”
Republican-backed laws mandating that voters show strict forms of photo identification have also swept across the nation. Brentin Mock wrote earlier this week at Colorlines.com that the laws could disenfranchise an estimated five million potential voters — many of whom are people of color, young, or disabled. And they’re part of a coordinated GOP effort to hamper democratic efforts to get out the vote ahead of this year’s presidential election:
Republicans in state legislatures around the country have tried to pass these laws for years. Their efforts had been repeatedly voted down or vetoed out, mostly because the U.S. Constitution prevents meddling with voters’ rights. But in 2010, Republicans not only took over Congress, they became majorities in state legislatures across the country. Numerous states that previously had Democratically controlled general assemblies turned Tea Party-red, and one of the chief items on their agendas was changing the rules of the voting game.
Rev. Al Sharpton is also participating in this year’s march in Selma. “We made a lot of progress over the last 50 years, but it can all be taken away if we’re not careful,” Sharpton said recently, according to The Daily Beast. “We’re living in a time where officials can complain about voter fraud and it’s less than 1 percent. They can complain because it’s a black president and that’s their real complaint.”