45 years after he and others were beaten in one of the defining events of the civil rights movement, Representative John Lewis returns to Alabama's Edmund Pettus Bridge.
March Marks “Bloody Sunday” Anniversary
LESTER HOLT, anchor:
It was one of the defining events of the civil rights movement, the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. But 45 years ago today it got off to a violent start on what became known as Bloody Sunday. Some who were there then returned to Selma today.
This time they crossed the bridge not to protest, but to remember.
Mr. JOHN LEWIS: It doesn't feel like it's been 45 years. It feels like it was just a few short years ago.
HOLT: Today, just as he did then, veteran Congressman John Lewis helped lead the march.
Mr. LEWIS: (From file footage) We intend to march to Montgomery to present our grievances to Governor George C. Wallace.
HOLT: On this day in 1965, hundreds of marchers set out for the state's capital, but were stopped almost before they began --
Unidentified Man: (From file footage) You are ordered to disperse.
HOLT: -- on orders from Alabama Governor George Wallace. Troopers and deputies fired tear gas and beat the marchers back with batons and electric cattle prods. More than 80 were injured. The march was organized by Dr. Martin Luther King.
Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.: (From file footage) It would be a great thing to walk to Montgomery for freedom all the way from Selma, Alabama.
HOLT: The marchers were forced to retreat, but the violence had outraged the nation and the president. The National Guard and US Army were ordered in. And on March 25th, 1965, the marchers finally reached Montgomery.
Dr. KING Jr.: (From file footage) His truth is marching on!
HOLT: Five months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, outlawing discrimination at the polls. There to bear witness, Dr. King and John Lewis. The signing took place in the very same room where, 44 years later, President Obama took his first act as president. Today in a statement, the president said, “Let us honor the memory of all those who were shoved and beaten within an inch of their lives because they believed in the simple truth that every American, regardless of race, had the right to cast a vote, had the right to live free, had the right to reach for their dreams.” The words of President Obama today, 45 years after “Bloody Sunday.”
In early 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) made Selma, Alabama the focus of its efforts to register black voters in the South. That March, protesters attempting to march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were met with violent resistance by state and local authorities.