56 years after 'Bloody Sunday,' lawmakers push for voting rights

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Posted at 9:29 PM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-07 22:37:26-05

WASHINGTON D.C. — 56 years ago, 600 civil rights activists were brutally beaten by state troopers, as they marched for their right to vote in Selma, Alabama.

A day that become known as “Bloody Sunday” and led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark achievement of the civil rights movement.

When I look back on Selma, I look at it as a historic landmark, kind of last stand of legal segregation. Head-to-head confrontation between people demanding, respect, respect as human beings, respect as American citizens, versus those who were holding on to the vestiges of our unfortunate racist past, who weren't ready to let it go,” WMU Cooley Law School Associate Dean Tracey Brame said.

Among those fighting for the future was the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, then just 25-years-old.

With scars still showing from the beaten he took in 1965, he continued crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the march until his passing in July of last year.

“While I'm sad that he's gone. He's left such a legacy that hopefully his memory and the work that he's done will truly usher us in to that next phase,” Brame added.

That next phase could include a new push in the realm of what Lewis and hundreds of others were fighting for.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that directs federal agencies to take steps to promote voter registration and participation. He also called on Congress to pass voting rights legislation.

The order comes just days after the Democratic-led House passed H.R.1, a sweeping election and ethics bill that expands voting access, restricts gerrymandering and brings transparency to the campaign finance system.

The bill is on the way to the Senate but it faces significant opposition from Republicans who says it allows unwanted federal interference on state elections, an doesn't do anything to protect against fraud.

“Democrats want to use their razor-thin majority not to pass bills to earn voters’ trust, but to ensure they don’t lose more seats in the next election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

Vice President Kamala Harris says if it passes, it will help bring an end to “voter suppression.”

“Americans today want to vote for the same reason the Selma teachers marched to that courthouse: to have a say in their lives. To have a say in what happens to them and the people in their community,” Harris said.

“Because as citizens of this country, we all have a right to be heard and to have our vote count. And our laws should make it easier, not more difficult to exercise that right,” Harris added.