Civil rights protesters beaten in “Bloody Sunday” attack
On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, a demonstration of 600 people for civil rights ends in violence when demonstrators are attacked and beaten by white state soldiers and sheriff’s deputies. The events of the day became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
Protesters – led by civil rights activists John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – commemorated the recent fatal shooting of 26-year-old deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson by state soldier James Bonard Fowler. The group planned to travel the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Just as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside of Selma, they were ordered to disperse. Moments later, the police attacked them with tear gas, whips and clubs. Lewis, then 25, was one of 17 walkers hospitalized; dozens more were treated for injuries.
The violence was broadcast on television and reported in the newspapers, which sparked protests in 80 cities across the country within days. March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr. has led over 2,000 walkers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 15, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke of the need for vote reform, something Selma activists have been fighting for a long time: “There is no question of state or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. We have already waited 100 years and more, and the time for waiting is over. ”
King finished March in Montgomery, with 25,000 demonstrators, on March 25, under the protection of the American army and the FBI. The route is now an American National Historic Trail. Produced by what Johnson called “Selma’s outrage”, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was enacted five months later, with the aim of “correcting this wrong”. Lewis became a member of the Georgia US Congress in 1986.