Tens of thousands are expected this weekend in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when hundreds of marchers were beaten and tear gassed during the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights.
The aftermath of the march helped galvanize support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which passed a few months later. For nearly five decades, the landmark federal law helped prevent racial discrimination in voting. But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Act’s key provision, removing a critical tool to protect voters.
The decision came amid a new nationwide push to restrict voting rights. Since the 2010 election, 21 states have new laws making it harder to vote. Several of those laws were implemented in the aftermath of the Court’s decision.
“It’s surprising and remarkable that in 2015 we’re fighting over the same thing we fought over 50 years ago — the right to vote,” Wendy Weiser told The Nation.
President Obama will speak at this weekend’s gathering and highlight his administration’s civil rights work. “This is a perfect time for the White House to try to get Americans focused on protecting voting rights,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery in Agence France-Presse.