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New Selma-to-Montgomery march is more than just a reenactment

By Antoinette Campbell, CNN
updated 6:56 PM EST, Tue March 6, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Civil rights activists are reenacting a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama
  • On March 7, 1965, police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge beat marchers seeking voter rights
  • New march aims to highlight what's being called a modern-day attack on voter rights

(CNN) -- Civil rights activists reenacting a 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, are doing more than just reliving an important part of American history -- they are bringing a new message to an old fight.

Two days after NAACP President Ben Jealous -- along with organizer the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson -- were joined by thousands of people, both young and old, to mark the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, their journey through Alabama continues.

Participants say this year -- an election year -- is about more than just remembering, it's about raising consciousness.

"Right now, we are seeing the Voting Rights Act attacked more consistently across the country than we have seen since it was passed." Jealous said.

Since crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday, marchers are continuing on to Montgomery to bring attention to what they call a modern-day attack on voting rights.

"We need people to understand that not only is history not very distant, but we stand on the precipice of repeating it," Jealous said.

Marching in Selma, Alabama.
Marching in Selma, Alabama.

The NAACP leader said strict voter ID laws that won't allow people to vote without a driver's license or passport are unnecessary and will make it difficult -- and in some cases impossible -- for 5 million people to vote.

"We need to make sure that the principle of one person, one vote, is respected," he said.

New marchers -- including a Latina student from Idaho who came with other members of a campus organization called Movimiento Activista Social, and senior citizens from Boston -- all made the trip to Alabama to fight voting restrictions nationwide.

Some older activists came to relive a turbulent time in American history.

As a girl, Amelia Boynton, who was born in 1911, sent a letter to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. asking him to participate in the march. This time, she couldn't make the journey on foot, so Boynton is being driven along the route.

She is joined by another elderly woman who was 11 and a member of the NAACP youth council on March 7, 1965.

On that day, protesters fighting for the right to vote tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were beaten back by police officers and attacked by dogs.

The brutal attack became known as Bloody Sunday.

This month, the Alabama House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution to gather and preserve a collection of accounts from current and former members of Congress who were involved in civil rights marches in the state.

Jealous agrees that is important that people know and remember the legacy of Selma.

"We need people to know what happened," he said. "We need students to know that people risked their lives."

Participants will have walked more than 20 miles by the end of day Tuesday. Once the walking ends, marchers will gather for the evening at Macedonia Church and sleep on cots, NAACP spokesman Derek Turner said.

The march, which was primarily organized by the National Action Network with support from the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, National Council of La Raza and other groups, is expected to end Friday on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery with a call to repeal voter ID laws and Alabama's HB56, a strict anti-immigration law.

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