Without a struggle, there can be no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will.
Commemoration event spans the epoch of civil rights to the present
Thousands of people held a reenactment walk during March to commemorate the historic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that culminated with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
A multi-ethnic march in defense of voter's and immigrant's rights.(click to enlarge)
Participants came from all parts of the country for this 2012 commemoration and marched in a show of unity under banners that called for the defense of voter and immigrant rights. They represented a cross section of organizations who are active in civil, labor, women’s and immigrantion rights issues. Some of the participating groups were the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Action
The anti-immigrant law H.B. 56 is denounced my marchers.
Network, numerous labor unions and organizations involved in immigration reform. Speakers at this event emphasized the need to coalesce and defend the interests of all of the people represented by the participating groups and to resist the efforts by backward elements in our society to roll back the hard-won gains of the past. The ongoing task of continuing to defend and expand our civil rights, and especially the hard-won Voting Rights Act of 1965, was stressed by other speakers. The call for combining unity with action from among those present was a dominant theme for all to embrace and to put into practice upon returning to their respective communities.
The 1965 Selma march fought for the democratic right to vote
On February 7th of 1965, civil rights marchers walking from Selma to Montgomery Alabama crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The peaceful group was met on the other side of the bridge by
The 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama.
an armed formation of local police, state troopers and a local posse who proceeded to unleash a brutal attack upon the march using clubs, tear gas and attack dogs. Mounted police then chased down and trampled the retreating marchers and beat them with whips. This unprovoked police attack on the participants left hundreds bloodied and hurt and required many to be hospitalized. To this day, this 1965 march is called “Bloody Sunday” in history books and by those involved in the civil rights movement. Congressman John
The struggle to win voting rights experienced attacks such as this in Selma called "Bloody Sunday".
Lewis was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at that time and suffered a fractured skull from that police attack 47 years ago. However, once again he was marching in the 2012 commemoration to defend the valued rights that were previously won. The political effects of this civil rights march and violent attack created a public outcry throughout the country that subsequently led to intense public pressure being applied upon the U.S. Congress to approve the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Voter discrimination and suppression is on the increase
Today, there is an increase in the number of voter ID laws being approved by the states that are primarily aimed at intimidating and disenfranchising minority voters. These voter suppression laws have been primarily sponsored by Republican lawmakers and have been passed in Texas, Alabama and other states under the phony pretext that an “increase in voter fraud” needs to be prevented. According to the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, only 55 people have been convicted of voter fraud out of the hundred million or more votes cast within the past few years. And in fact, most of these
To suppress the Latino vote,Texas officials are challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.
cases that were investigated involved cases of increasing voter suppression rather than voter fraud. The real political reason for the increasing incidence of state voter ID laws is to decrease the pool of minority voters who are more likely to vote Democratic in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. As part of this voter suppression activity, African-American voters in the South and Latinos in the Southwest, are being asked to present documents such as drivers licenses, birth certificates and passports in order to vote. Many people do not have or readily possess these documents and are therefore being denied their right to cast a ballot. These new laws aimed at obstructing the right to vote are similar to those of the pre-civil rights days when expensive poll taxes and complicated literacy tests were used to disenfranchise minority voters and deprive them of their right to representation.
Alabama Latinos organize into coalitions to protest the injustice of HB 56
An increase in Alabama’s Latino population has created a flurry of anti-immigrant legislation and harassment by state officials and police. Patterned after the repressive anti-immigrant laws passed in
Latinos in Alabama united with other ethnic groups to defend voting and immigrants rights.
Arizona and other states, HB 56 was approved by Alabama lawmakers in 2011. The provisions of this new law are much more severe than those of Arizona as they have empowered the police in Alabama to carry out intensive racial profiling and harassment of the Latino community. Latino immigrants in Alabama have had their rights to work, sign contracts, acquire housing, have their children attend school, and even to drive in public affected by HB 56. During the ongoing legislative debates regarding this law, Alabama politicians regularly make derogatory comments about “illegal Hispanics” and use the terms “Hispanic and illegal immigrants” interchangeably without making any effort to make a distinction between a person’s ethnicity and their immigration status. In other words, according to the racist stereotype of these Alabama lawmakers, all Latinos whether documented or not, are “illegals” who need to be pressured and ejected from the state in a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. This harassment and hate-filled rhetoric
Many Latino children do not attend school due to a fear of being asked for documents.
has affected and instilled fear into the daily lives of Latino residents. Many immigrant parents have had hospitals refuse them medical attention and are afraid to have their children attend school out of fear that school officials will question their kids about their immigration status and demand INS documents from them as required by the new law. Many families have also had their water, gas and electricity cut off at their homes as any agreements that were signed by supposedly undocumented persons are considered illegal under the provisions of HB 56. The true objective of Alabama state officials and their legislation is not to merely enforce immigration laws, but to drive all Latinos out of the state. Lawsuits filed by the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center have persuaded federal judges to issue injunctions against several provisions of HB 56. However, no final legal determination can be made until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law which has similar unjust provisions. African-American civil rights organizations along with newly formed Latino groups have taken up the fight against this campaign of political intimidation as well as the struggle against the surge of new voter identification laws. This new unity has resulted in a show of strength and determination to overcome these new challenges to their basic civil rights.
This political offensive targets the rights of voters, Latinos, women and labor.
The present economic crisis has emboldened ultra-right and regressive political elements in our society to unleash an attack on the Voting Rights Act by bankrolling and promoting the passage of voter
A progressive alliance comprised of common issues for the common good is being created.
ID laws in a number of states which are in reality voter suppression laws. Since January, thirteen more states under Republican legislative majorities have approved new voter ID laws which make the democratic right to cast a ballot much more restrictive for certain groups. These voter discrimination laws are being passed in coordination with an increase in the legal harassment of Latinos. This growing assault that is being waged under the political cover of right-wing conservatism, state’s rights and extreme white nationalism, is also taking aim at women’s health and reproductive rights, ethnic studies programs and the hard-won rights of labor. Additional targets are Social Security and Medicare. This strategy of disenfranchising voters and especially minorities, has as its political objective the empowerment of the increasingly white and right-ward leaning Republican Party. The chipping away at the rights of voters, women, labor and immigrants are all interrelated. Any weakening of the rights of any of these respective groups translates into increased profits and corporate political power for the few, and a corresponding decrease in the standard of living and general rights of the majority of working people. The old saying still holds true, an attack against one, is an attack against all.
A new progressive coalition is in the process of being forged.
By once again marching from Selma to Montgomery and commemorating “Bloody Sunday” by crossing the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, the thousands of participants have drawn attention to and symbolized the need to link the civil rights struggles of the past to the vital issues presently facing us. The numerous speakers at this event reinforced this message that we must not only defend our rights, but also expand them in the face of this well-organized and financed political offensive whose objective is to weaken people’s voting power and the well-being of
Progress can only be won through the unity and action of broad-based coalitions.
of their families. We cannot sit by passively and simply relish our past accomplishments in civil rights and advances in social mobility. Conditions are constantly changing and the enemies of progress are relentless in their attempt to roll back the clock of history. All of our interests were represented by the people participating in this reenactment march in Alabama as the diversity of their faces reflected those that exist throughout our society. We can no longer simply reside within our isolated islands of existence as all of the issues that were raised at this march and rally in Selma will ultimately impact all of us in one way or another. The spiraling increase in the prices of gasoline, healthcare, housing, education and food, in conjunction with rampant unemployment, wars and the hacking away at our democratic rights, will slowly erode our political voice and drain away vital resources from the financial needs of our families. We are facing a critical moment economically and politically which makes it imperative that we link together as many groups as possible and from this build multi-ethnic alliances and broad-based coalitions that serve the common good. In order to resist this financial and political offensive being waged upon our families and communities, we must ensure that allied groups and the sectors that they represent be defended and assisted in maintaining their strength and ability to survive and progress. In essence, we need to create solidarity and take the offensive. When a chain of unity is forged, it is necessary that all of its links be strong and firm as only this will guarantee that the chain as a whole will move forward.