OP-ED: On Bloody Sunday’s 56-Year Mark, President Biden’s Words Remind Americans That Democracy Needs a Renewed Push for Voting Rights

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NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Fifty-six years ago, Bloody Sunday marked a turning point in our nation’s civil rights movement. The brutal assault on peaceful civil rights demonstrators ranging from the young to the elderly left an indelible imprint on the collective conscience of the nation and led to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, our nation’s most important federal civil rights law.

In many cases, the same baseless and thinly-veiled rationales used to challenge ballot access in the 1960s are resurfacing today in support of these efforts to shrink our democracy. Top left: Alabama police attack Selma to Montgomery marchers, known as “Bloody Sunday,” in 1965 Top right: Marchers carrying banner “We march with Selma!” on street in Harlem, New York City, New York in 1965 Bottom left: Participants in the Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama during 1965 Bottom right: Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, their families, and others leading the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 (Photos: Wikimedia Commons)

By Damon Hewitt, Acting President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

On the 56-year mark of Alabama’s brutal Bloody Sunday attack on Black communities, their allies and democracy itself, President Joe Biden released recorded remarks this morning calling for Senate passage of the national Lawyers’ Committee-supported For the People Act (H.R. 1) and restoring the Voting Rights Act, now named the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. President Biden also is expected to sign an executive order to promote voter registration and other measures.

The following is a statement from Damon Hewitt, acting president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“Fifty-six years ago, Bloody Sunday marked a turning point in our nation’s civil rights movement. The brutal assault on peaceful civil rights demonstrators ranging from the young to the elderly left an indelible imprint on the collective conscience of the nation and led to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, our nation’s most important federal civil rights law.

“Today, renewed efforts to restrict voting rights in ways that disproportionally impact African Americans, other communities of color, students, the faith community and the elderly, threaten to roll back the clock on progress. In many cases, the same baseless and thinly-veiled rationales used to challenge ballot access in the 1960s are resurfacing today in support of these efforts to shrink our democracy.

“It is time once again to enact federal legislation that will stop those efforts in their tracks. President Biden’s executive order on Sunday morning directing the federal government to promote voting access is important, and the country needs more affirmative actions like these. We must also summon the courage and moral clarity of the demonstrators who demanded passage of the original bill in 1965 to now demand passage of both the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. Doing so will make voting and participatory democracy freer, fairer and more accessible for all Americans.”

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.  For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.

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