Bloody Sunday 2022: Vice President Kamala Harris celebrates the anniversary of the Selma attack, the pivotal moment for US suffrage

SELMA, Ala. — Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Alabama on Sunday as the nation marks a pivotal moment in the struggle for the right to vote, a trip that comes as Congress’ efforts to restore the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act stalled.

Harris is traveling to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 57th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day in 1965 when white state troopers attacked black suffrage marchers attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The nation’s first female vice president — and the first African American and Native American woman to hold the role — will speak at what is often cited as sacred ground in the struggle for the right to vote for minority citizens.

On March 7, 1965, state troops beat and tear-gassed peaceful protesters, including young activist John Lewis, who later became a longtime Georgia congressman. The images of violence shocked a nation and helped spur support for passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Her visit to the city, which served as the cradle of the Voting Rights Act, comes as Democrats have unsuccessfully attempted to update the landmark law and pass additional measures to make voting more convenient for people.

The law, named after Lewis, who died in 2020, is part of a broader election package that collapsed in the US Senate in February.

CLOCK: Our America: New Frontier of Voting Rights focuses on those working to ensure fair and equitable access to the ballot box

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., visited Alabama during a congressional pilgrimage coinciding with the anniversary and said he hopes a compromise can save the Lewis-named voting rights bill.

“The John Lewis bill means a lot to us because so many of us worked together on the bill, with John being the leader and the inspiration,” Hoyer said in an interview in Birmingham on Friday.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 overturned part of the 1965 law that required certain states with a history of electoral discrimination, mostly in the South, to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before changing the way they vote hold elections.

Proponents of ending pre-clearance said that while the requirement was necessary in the 1960s, it was no longer needed. Voting rights activists have warned that the end of pre-authorization is emboldening states to adopt a new wave of voting restrictions.

WATCH: The body of civil rights icon John Lewis crosses the Selma Bridge

President Joe Biden used a small portion of his State of the Union address to reiterate his plea for Congress to take action.

“The most fundamental right in America is the right to vote — and to count. And it is attacked. New laws have been passed in states not only to stifle voting, but to undermine entire elections,” Biden said.

The sweeping legislation, called the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, would restore the pre-approval requirement and statewide standards for election conduct — like making Election Day a national holiday and allowing early voting statewide — setting rules for redistributing criteria .

The annual Bloody Sunday commemoration has become a regular stop for politicians to pay homage to the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement and call to action.

Harris will visit civil rights leaders before speaking at the foot of the bridge. Named for a Confederate general and respected Ku Klux Klan leader, the bridge has become an enduring symbol of the civil rights movement.

Harris will also participate in the annual event’s symbolic march across the bridge.

Several other members of President Joe Biden’s administration will also attend the event, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Michael Regan.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Bloody Sunday 2022: Vice President Kamala Harris celebrates the anniversary of the Selma attack, the pivotal moment for US suffrage

Dais Johnston

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