On This Day, Mar. 20, 1965, LBJ Sends Federal Troops to Alabama

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama‘s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper. In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King...

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Facing A Budget Crunch, Alabama Cuts Voter ID Access While Keeping State Liquor Stores Open

by ALICE OLLSTEIN –   Demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery this week pressure Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to reverse his decision to cut the hours of more than a dozen state DMVs — a move they say will make it much harder for many residents to get a voter ID. “This is not about budgets. This is about voting right,” state Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) told ThinkProgress. “The governor, with a stroke of a pen, can change this. Our efforts are to enlighten him and pressure him.” Bentley had originally ordered 31 DMV offices — concentrated in rural, majority-African American counties — to be shut down entirely. After pressure from local officials and national civil rights groups, the state announced they would keep the offices open, but only one day per month. At the same time, the state will keep funding 25 liquor...

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Democrats Unveil Bill To Restore Gutted Voting Rights Act

by ALICE OLLSTEIN – On the eve of the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the Voting Rights Act of one of its strongest provisions, Democrats in the House and Senate are pushing a new bill to restore federal oversight in states and counties with a history of discrimination and voter suppression. The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 goes far beyond the version introduced in 2014, which would have only required four states — Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before changing their voting laws. It was also widely criticized by voting rights advocates for a special carve-out for voter ID laws, so they don’t count against a state in determining whether they need federal oversight. But that bill, a compromise aimed at winning support from Republicans, did not even receive a hearing in the House of Representatives, let alone a...

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GOP Lawmakers Explain Why They Don’t Support John Lewis’ Bill To Restore Voting Rights Act

By ALICE OLLSTEIN, ThinkProgress – SELMA, ALABAMA — Dozens of members of Congress, and many more Republicans than ever before, came to Selma this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the infamous attack on voting rights protesters known as Bloody Sunday. Some lawmakers told ThinkProgress the event highlighted the urgency of passing a currently languishing bill that would restore the full powers of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Others showed little interest in doing so. On his way to the commemoration ceremony, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said it’s been “powerful” to hear stories from Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who helped lead the Selma march 50 years ago and was severely beaten by police. But when ThinkProgress asked if he supports Lewis’ voting rights bill, he replied, “I haven’t looked at it. Is there a Senate version?” A Senate version was introduced several weeks ago, and currently has zero Republican...

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President Obama Honors Milestone Moment at Selma, 50 Years Later

By Renee Lewis, Al Jazeera – President Barack Obama called on Americans to carry forward the spirit of the civil rights movement during a speech in Selma, Alabama, Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the momentous march known as “Bloody Sunday” and the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough,” Obama said. “If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done – the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.” Thousands of people arrived in Selma ahead of Obama’s speech, as civil rights leaders and 100 members of Congress sat in attendance. The atmosphere was festive, with vendors selling souvenirs commemorating the violent confrontation that took place decades ago. Being patriotic, Obama said, does not simply mean singing America’s praises. “Sometimes, it requires the occasional disruption,”...

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Fifty Years On, Gains Achieved by Those Who Bled in Selma Are Under Attack

‘The thing about racism is that it always morphs to undermine progress.’ by Jon Queally – As political leaders, celebrities, and civil rights activists descend on the city of Selma, Alabama this weekend to commemorate the famous march that culminated in the brutal assault by local law enforcement that became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ on March 7, 1965, both veteran participants and a younger generation of racial justice advocates are making it clear that even after fifty years of struggle—despite monumental victories won by those who marched and died for the cause —the ultimate fight aimed at securing equal rights, economic justice, and shared opportunities is far from over. Having marched across the now-historic Edmund Pettus Bridge alongside hundreds of others, including Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma on that day fifty years ago, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said this week that for him, the bridge “is a sacred place” because...

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Alabama Secretary Of State: It’s Time To ‘Forgive People’ For Voter Suppression And ‘Move On’

by ALICE OLLSTEIN – Just weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of the violent clashes in Selma that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, lawmakers introduced a bill to restore that law’s power to protect voters against discrimination. Alabama’s newly sworn in Secretary of State John Merrill told ThinkProgress at a DC conference on Wednesday that he believes the new law should not cover his state, saying it’s time to “forgive people” for past voter suppression and “move on.” Civil rights groups and some lawmakers are already sharing concerns that Alabama — whose racially motivated redistricting case led to the gutting of the law in the first place — is not covered by the new version of the Voting Rights Act. But Merrill said he agrees with the authors of the bill that his state should not fall under the updated coverage formula. “I feel good...

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America’s Dumbest Congressman Says ‘Selma’ Shows Why We Should Fight ‘Radical Islam’

By Hunter, Daily Kos – One of the ways Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) retains his lock on the title of America’s Dumbest Congressman is sheer persistence. Other candidates may pipe up with occasional entries into the genre of mind-bending goofiness, but Louie Gohmert makes it a practice to demonstrate his skills on a regular basis in his very, very frequent speeches to an empty House floor. His particular skills lie in the free association category; Louie Gohmert can take any two random thoughts that enter his mind and make them about each other, and about Barack Obama being a bad person. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Thursday drew an interesting lesson from the critically acclaimed movie “Selma,” saying it reminded him of the importance of fighting radical Islam.”I thought about the Egyptian peaceable revolution as I watched the movie ‘Selma,'” the congressman said during a speech on the House floor. “Thank...

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