Thousands of people crowded an Alabama bridge to commemorate a bloody confrontation 50 years ago between police and peaceful protesters that was a landmark in the civil rights movement and helped bring about the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
A day after President Barack Obama had walked atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge, many yesterday jammed shoulder to shoulder, many unable to move, as they recalled the civil rights struggle.
Police said at least 15,000 to 20,000 people had joined the crush on and around the small bridge. Many came from around the country for several events commemorating the event.
William Baldwin, 69, of Montgomery, Alabama, brought his two grandsons, ages 11 and 15, to the bridge yesterday so they could grasp the importance of the historic march he took part in a half century earlier.
“They’re going to take this struggle on and we have to understand the price that was paid for them to have what they have now,” Baldwin said. “It wasn’t granted to them, it was earned by blood, sweat and tears.”
Some sang hymns and others held signs, such as “Black lives matter, all lives matter.” The crowd was so large that many appeared barely able to move as they peacefully sought to make their way across.
On March 7, 1965, police beat and tear-gassed marchers at the foot of the bridge in Selma in a spasm of violence that shocked the nation. The attack help build momentum for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act later that year.