Category: Prime Politics Published on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:06 Written by Denise Stewart
The Selma-to-Montgomery march concluded on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, but organizers say their fight in the causes for which they have marched will not end.
For six days now, marchers have trekked from Selma, about 54 miles, to Montgomery in hopes of focusing the nation’s attention on voting rights, worker’s rights, immigration rights, labor rights and education.
“The next step is litigation,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and leader of the National Action Network. “We’re going to start going to these 34 states where they have enacted discriminatory voter identification laws, and we will challenge the laws in court.”
Sharpton made the statement to BlackAmericaweb.com, as a he took a brief break from the march.
In some states, early voting has been eliminated, mostly through the actions of Republican-controlled legislatures. In other states, there have been new requirements for using state-issued identification in order to vote.
The tough voter ID laws in several states could greatly reduce the number of potential voters in upcoming elections, said the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“More than 5 million African-Americans in this country do not have the photo ids required for voting in some states,” Jackson told BlackAmericaweb.com. “In Texas, students can use a gun license as identification for voting, but they can’t use their student ID cards to meet the voting requirement.”
“We must do two things,” Jackson continued. “We must call on the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene to protect the legacy of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and we must occupy the polls.”
Jackson said an alarming number of African-Americans who could vote are not registered.
“In Alabama, there are 300,000 unregistered potential voters. In Georgia, there are 700,000 unregistered Black voters,” Jackson said.
Nationally, Jackson noted that there are 16 million Black voters, but another 10 million potential voters who are unregistered.
“The ball is in our court. This year we have to register people to vote and we have to show up at the polls,” he said.
In 1965, the young Jackson marched from Selma to Montgomery with leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Joseph Lowery. This time, he’s been on the trail once again.
Thousands started out Sunday on the first leg of the march. A dedicated core of marchers have started the walk each day after spending the night at a central location, then being bused to the starting point each day.
At the front of the march on Monday were three of the nation’s top civil rights leaders – Sharpton, Jackson and Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP. Sharpton and Jackson have marched each day. They have been joined by longtime activists, such as Dick Gregory, as well as some younger activists, incuding actor/singer Tyrese.
It was 47 years ago that a similar historic march took place focusing the nation’s attention on voting rights. When those marchers set out to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were beaten back by Alabama State Troopers.
Images of the brutal treatment of non-violent marchers were shown around the world. Soon Congress was prompted to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.
Each day of the march has carried a specific theme. Thursday, the focus was on immigration rights. Last year, the Alabama Legislature passed some of the toughest anti-immigration laws in the nation. An estimated 1,200 marchers walked about 10 miles, often singing the familiar anthems of the Civil Rights Movement.
The rallying point for the conclusion of the march was across the street from Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the church pastored by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at the time the Montgomery Bus Boycott started in 1955.
Sharpton predicted that thousands would join in for the final steps of the march that Friday.
“We’ll wrap up the march in Montgomery, but it won’t stop there,” he said.
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