WASHINGTON — On March 7, 1965, unarmed civil and voting rights protestors marched into Selma, Ala. to call for the right to vote. When they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by state troopers who attacked them with clubs, whips, and tear gas, injuring more than 50 people.
That day, known as “Bloody Sunday,” became a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act a few months later.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery:
• Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC Chair: “As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday,’ let us honor the courage and leadership of those who marched for equality and helped bring America through one of its darkest periods. In the face of violence, prejudice, and hate, these brave men and women fought for the fundamental right to vote. It was not hopelessness that drove them, but hope. And thanks to their courage and voices, the historic Voting Rights Act (VRA) became law.
“Although our country has made great progress over the past five decades, our fight is not over. The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted key provisions of the VRA, was a setback for voting rights that we much rectify. As we honor the marchers in Selma — and the many who have followed since — I remain committed to passing legislation that will protect our sacred right to vote and ensure that all Americans have equal access to the ballot box.”
• Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “Fifty years ago this weekend, civil rights leaders marched into history by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the face of danger to stand up against intolerance and fight injustice. In Hawaii, we are a diverse people of many cultures and have a unique understanding of the dream of Dr. King and the marchers in Selma. We know that while our differences may define us, they should never divide us.
“This weekend, Rep. (Mark) Takai and I will honor the men and women who risked their lives in the name of equality on Bloody Sunday by presenting civil rights leaders with flower lei, just as Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka did during the third Selma march in 1965, to bring the spirit of peace and aloha from across the Pacific to Selma.”
• Rep. Mike Honda (D-Santa Clara), CAPAC chair emeritus: “This weekend commemorates the 50th anniversary of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ assault, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led brave men and women across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Armed officers attacked peaceful marchers who were attempting to make their way to the state capital of Montgomery in the pursuit of equal rights.
“While we have come so far since then, there is still much more work to be done. Dr. King’s eventual success in leading one of history’s greatest displays of civil disobedience influenced the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We in Congress must do our best to address the serious divisions that still exist in our society, and restore the critical parts of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
“One man’s vision and courage will live on within the spirit of what makes our country great. This weekend, we honor his bold action and the resolute boldness of those who marched alongside him.”
• Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), CAPAC Civil Rights Task Force chair: “Fifty years ago, demonstrators marching in support of voting rights were ruthlessly beaten in Selma, Ala. The cause these brave men and women marched for would not be deterred by senseless acts of violence. They returned weeks later to continue what they started. Their noble efforts led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most consequential pieces of legislation to come out of the Civil Rights Movement.
“While we honor the sacrifices these Americans made 50 years ago, we must recommit ourselves to ensure that no one’s right to vote is infringed.”
• Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “Fifty years ago, more than 600 marchers exercised their fundamental right to peacefully march from Selma to Montgomery. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and many other civil rights icons, these brave men and women sought one thing — equality, regardless of race. In what would become known as ‘Bloody Sunday,’ these heroes were beaten and bloodied. Yet despite these horrific acts, they continued their non-violent form of protest, eventually making it to Montgomery.
“This march would catapult the issue of civil rights into homes across America and open the eyes of millions to the struggles of African Americans. Without the marchers’ courage, our nation would be less perfect. Every American, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, owes them a debt of gratitude, and I thank them for their sacrifice.”
• Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento): “The march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, represents an important moment in our country’s history that paved the way to grant all Americans, regardless of race, the right to vote. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this march, let us reflect upon the many leaders, like Asian American activist Todd Endo, who marched side-by-side with a diverse group of Americans to help shape the civil rights we enjoy today.
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy and we must continue the fight to ensure that all Americans have equal access to the ballot box.”
• Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Manhattan Beach): “Fifty years ago under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., advocates for civil rights marched from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery, Ala. to speak out against intolerance and oppression. At the peak of the American Civil Rights Movement, this period became known as the ‘Selma Voting Rights Movement,’ which ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark achievement for our federal government. Today, we must reaffirm our commitment to always protect the rights of each and every eligible voter in America.”
• Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii): “Fifty years ago civil rights leaders took a courageous step forward for all Americans. The Freedom Marches — and the progress toward voting rights, civil liberties and tolerance that they helped to bring about — have left their mark on the generations and resonate deeply with us today.
“Before the Freedom Marches, the Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka of Hawaii sent to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders traditional Hawaiian lei, to symbolize aloha and compassion from the people of Hawaii, and empathy with the marchers in Alabama. To honor that legacy this weekend, I, along with Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, will be bringing the same type of lei worn in 1965 by the leaders of the marches, to present them to Congressman John Lewis and other civil rights leaders as we cross the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge — marching in solidarity for civil rights for all.”