Sunday, March 7, 2021

Bloody Sunday Remembered

 March 7th, 2021

My Dear America:

I was 23 years old when "Bloody Sunday" occurred on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma Alabama 56 Years Ago.  A Group of Civil Rights Marchers crossed the bridge on March 7th, 1965 and were met by the Alabama State Police and a Posse armed with billy clubs and tear gas.  The marchers, including Dr. Martin Luther King and a young Future Congressman named John Robert Lewis, were scheduled to march to the State Capitol of Montgomery, Alabama.  They were stopped after crossing the bridge by the Police and Posse who beat the marchers severely in front of Television Cameras that photographed the bloodbath in which many marchers, including young John Lewis, were beaten within an inch of their life. The beatings stopped the Civil Rights March on that day and the March leaders returned with the group to the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma to begin planning their future moves.  

The Group Marched for a Second time across the Edmund Pettis Bridge on March 9th, 1965.  The State Troopers stepped aside to let the marchers pass but Dr. King led the group back to the A.M.E. Church to obey a Federal Injunction while seeking protection for the Marchers from a Federal Court.  That night one of the Marchers was beaten and murdered. James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist Minister from Boston had been so outraged with the Bloody Sunday beatings he witnessed on Television that he had come to Selma to join the marchers along with many other clergy and sympathizers who had gathered for the second march.  Reverend Reeb would unfortunately never leave Selma alive.

On March 21st the Marchers gathered once again and this time after marching proudly across the Edmund Pettis Bridge they continued on their march to Montgomery protected by 1900 members of the Alabama National Guard and many additional FBI Agents and Federal Marshalls.  The Marchers averaged 10 miles a day walking along U.S. Route 80 which was called in Alabama the Jefferson Davis Highway and arrived successfully at the Capitol with 25, 000 supporters as they entered the Alabama Capitol.  

The Route taken by the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights Marchers is now designated as the "Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail." 

Certainly the Brutal Beatings shown on Broadcast Television and the Murder of Reverend Reeb put some serious pressure on President Lyndon Johnson and the United States Congress to wake up to the terrible reality of life in the Segregated South for African Americans.  LBJ addressed a Nationally Televised Joint Session of Congress on March 15th to ask for Legislation to be passed addressing the problem of Racial Justice not only in the south but everywhere in America.

In response to Johnson's call for legislation the Voting Rights Act finally became law on August 6th, 1965.

Bloody Sunday was not the end of Racism in the South and Elsewhere in the United States of America but it was an important move forward to an America that had taken giant steps toward Racial Justice.  There have been many giant steps taken since 1965 in what Martin Luther King Called a Stride Toward Freedom and Justice for black Americans.

Fast forward to today and we have seen in recent years some giant steps backward with regard to Racial Justice in America.  Certainly some Right Leaning Supreme Court Decisions virtually doing away with some established Voting Rights Standards is a disturbing and unwelcome addition to problems concerning voting rights.  The Trump Administration seemed to welcome all voting rights restrictions that seemed to limit Democrats and in particular black Democrats.

Black Lives Matter Protests were unwelcome in Trump World and the concept of Black Lives Matter during the Trump Administration was often met with a level of violence against BLM Supporters not seen since the days of  Reactions to 50's and 60's Civil Rights Protests.

Certainly Ex Civil Rights Advocates in Congress like John Lewis and James Clyburn have done all they could to remind all Americans to keep their guard up against efforts to turn back the Racial Clock to the Bad Old Days before Civil Rights Protests helped to improve Racial Justice for Black and Brown Americans.

We have seen in the runup to the 2020 Election Donald Trump and his Republican minions straight up blatantly trying to steal the election by any means they could. Trump almost destroyed the United States Postal Service to make it difficult for Democrats to vote for mail.  The many court challenges that went nowhere and Trump's threatening the Georgia Secretary of State are some of the most incredibly searing images of Political Corruption that we have ever seen in a Presidential  administration desperate to stay in power and out of jail.  

But on this 56th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the first one where John Lewis is not taking his Friends and Colleagues to Selma to celebrate the day he was brutalized for Freedom and Justice, we must remember for John what he went through and why he went through it.  

We have seen more than two hundred attempts throughout the United States by Republicans to push through Legislation that would make it more difficult for Democrats, and in particular Black Democrats, to vote in the coming years.  

We Democrats need to be more vigilant than ever in protecting the rights of All Americans to vote in every election that they are eligible to vote in.  If we don't protect our right to vote we may slip into an America that will look more like Nazi Germany than the land of the free.  

We must realize that although Donald Trump is out of office his Authoritarian spirit still haunts us.  Donald Trump did in fact encourage his followers to attack the Capitol Building on January 6th after refusing to accept the truth about the 2020 Election.  Trump is still telling the big lie.  He told his followers at C-PAC that he won the election in 2016 and in 2020 and was thinking of "Beating the Democrats a Third Time."  

The truth is that Donald Trump did beat the Democrats in 2016 not by number of votes but by the outmoded Electoral College System.  In 2021 he tried this time to encourage his Vice President to break the law and refuse to declare Joe Biden the legally elected President.  When Pence refused to break the law Trump threw Pence to the Trump Wolf Pack and we can be sure that if that group gotten hold of Pence on January 6th that they, indeed, would have hung him on the Capitol Grounds.  

Now inexplicably Mike Pence who did the right thing on January 6th and the Secretary of State in Georgia, Brian Raffensperger who also did the right thing in the 2020 election, as well as most of the Republicans in Congress are still pledging allegiance not to the American Flag but to the Trump Flag.

I will never understand how anyone who really believes in Freedom and Democracy can get behind a Dictator Wannabe like Donald Trump. 

It is time for Democrats to get involved in their state legislatures, many of them controlled by Republicans, and figure out how to keep voting alive and well in their states.  

We narrowly saved Democracy on Election Day in 2020 but we should have learned by that experience that we need to be as vigilant as John Lewis was throughout his life and do what he taught us to do to protect our right to vote.  It is a fundamental right that we should protect for as long as it needs protection.

Sincerely Yours 

Jerry Gallagher 

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