GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thousands across the country will commemorate the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”
On March 7, 1965, police violently attacked Black voting rights marchers as they walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The march was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Selma Sunday and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The Greater Grand Rapids branch of the NAACP took part in a march of their own. President Cle Jackson says the rally is more than about reflecting on the past.
It was 57 years ago when hundreds of peaceful demonstrators set out on a 54 mile walk headed to Montgomery from the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma.
“This is about engaging and making sure our voices are heard and that are votes matter and that our rights
are ultimately protected,” Jackson said.
They were marching for equal voting rights, but were soon stopped in their tracks.
“This is huge. This is a major historical event in terms of what happened and why it happened,” Jackson said. “It was sparked by the horrific what we call lynching and murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson in Marion County,
The group, led by the late Congressman John R. Lewis and Hosea Williams, was met with force by state troopers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Around 50 people were hospitalized from the attack, though their injuries weren’t in vain.
The march was one of three that paved the way for the passage of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed on Aug. 6.
“It was bigger than the march it was fundamentally about protecting their right to vote and engaging people of this democratic process,” Jackson said.
The Greater Grand Rapids Branch of the NAACP marched for voting rights on Sunday as they walked across the blue bridge downtown.
“I think we made some incredible gains in making sure all people have unfettered access to the ballot box. But now there’s been an attack to push us back to not only 1965 but years before that, to strip us of the right to vote,” he said.
Members of the local chapter of the NAACP say they are hopeful change will come. They say even if Congress or state and local officials don’t act, it won’t stop their efforts.
“Although the Senate failed us in not passing the John R Lewis Voting Rights Act, we want people to know that we are still pushing forward with a number of other groups to make sure that voting rights act is passed and that it’s restored,” Jackson said.
A video of the march can be found on the NAACP Grand Rapids Facebook page.