GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — This weekend, our nation’s leaders will reflect on a violent day that changed the course of American history. Among them will be U.S. Attorney for Western Michigan, Mark Totten.
March 7th marks 58 years since Bloody Sunday, when over 600 protestors planned to march peacefully from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery to fight for voting rights for African Americans. As they were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by state troopers, who brutally attacked them. The event sparked change in American hearts across the nation, as well as in the federal government. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and signed into law months later, preventing racial discrimination in voting.
“The federal government went into action, the Department of Justice played a very important role and it was an incredibly important milestone to help us get us further along the path where we are today,” said Totten.
He will join 30 other U.S. Attorneys from across the country in Alabama this weekend, meeting with community and civil rights leaders.
“It’s so important because Civil Rights continues to be a very important part of what we do at the Department of Justice,” Totten said.
He will meet with former judge Myron Thompson, who was the first Black Assistant Attorney General for Alabama and the second Black Federal Judge in the state. Totten said he’s interested to hear his story and perspective.
Totten is also a member of the Civil Rights subcommittee, which works to strengthen the aspect of Civil Rights in the DOJ. He says it has always been an important part, as one of the department’s main missions at its formation in 1870 was to dismantle the Ku Klux Klan, a group that was terrorizing African Americans in the wake of the Civil War.
“That work around stopping hate and discrimination, around protecting folks from discrimination is still very much an important part of our work today,” said Totten. “It’s enforcing the wide swath of federal laws the protect people from discrimination, whether that’s discrimination based on race, on color, on national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, that’s all very important work that we do today and it’s an important part of what my office does here in West Michigan as well.”