March 31, 2023

RECONCILIATION: How Biden commemorated a monumental day in civil rights history

RECONCILIATION: How Biden commemorated a monumental day in civil rights history

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President Joe Biden gave a speech in Selma, Alabama on Sunday to commemorate the 58th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when 600 peaceful protesters marching for voting rights and equality were brutally assaulted by law enforcement officers who beat and used tear gas on the activists.

Watch the video below.

Along with civil rights advocates like the Reverend Jesse Jackson, President Biden was there to insure that we don’t forget the sacrifice of those walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on that historical day.

“They forced the country to confront the hard truth and to act to keep the promise of America alive,” the President said in his speech – stressing the importance of voting rights for all Americans in this country.

“Selma is a reckoning. The right to vote and to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty,” Biden said. “With it, anything’s possible. Without it, without that right, nothing is possible. And this fundamental right remains under assault.”

Selma is one of the cradles of the civil rights movement, and still, today is fighting an uphill battle for recognition, acknowledgment, and equality.

“Six hundred believers put faith in action to march across that bridge named after the grand dragon of the KKK … to claim their fundamental right to vote,” Biden said.

“We should learn everything – the good, the bad, the truth of who we are as a nation. Everyone should know the truth of Selma,”

That last line was surely a sly dig at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his bid to erase Black history from his state’s educational curriculum as a form of racism.

President Biden’s presence and words will solidify his commitment to seeing, being, and facilitating change.

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“We know there’s work to do,” he said.

With a rise in extremism from the right, the President condemned the views, rhetoric, and actions that have spiraled this country into a place we should never want to see again.

“Extremism will not prevail. Silence, as the saying goes, silence is complicity. And I promise you, my administration will not remain silent. I promise you,” the President vowed.

In 2022, the nation’s first Black woman Vice President, Kamala Harris, went to Selma to honor the memories of those brave freedom fighters who endured the worst this country has to offer from those who should be protecting them.

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President Biden’s remarks on Sunday are a re-confirmation of sentiments he’s previously expressed. During his State of the Union address in January, the President again reminded America of the importance of protecting the franchisement of a community suppressed.

“In America, we must protect the right to vote, not suppress that fundamental right,” he said. “We honor the results of our elections, not subvert the will of the people. We must uphold the rule of the law and restore trust in our institutions of democracy,” Biden said in his address.

Sunday was a monumental day, with former President Barack Obama making a trip to the historic city.

“Selmas is now,” Obama said in a speech on Friday. “Selma is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

And he’s right.

It’s everyday people who will make the difference – who will carry the torch and move the country forward.

According to ABC News, the widow of the White priest, James Reeb, who was assassinated in Selma, traveled to the city for the momentous anniversary and met with the city’s residents.

Martin Luther King III was photographed with the daughters of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act into law five months after Bloody Sunday.

“History matters,” President Biden stressed. “The truth matters, notwithstanding what the other team is trying to hide.”

After his speech, the President marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge alongside legendary civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton and other freedom fighters.

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You can watch the President’s speech in Selma below.

Original reporting by Alexandra Hutzler at ABC News, and Jeff Mason at Reuters.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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