ast week, I drove to Selma, Ala., to participate in a march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Montgomery.
It was an awesome experience as we retraced the footsteps of past leaders and remembered the great sacrifices they made for civil rights.
I joined hundreds of citizens marching on historic route 80, marking the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the 1965 march and subsequent riot that helped spark the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
However, we did not march just to honor the past. We marched in protest of the present.
In Alabama, the vote looms under the threat of suppression, as conservative forces across the country try to make it harder for the poor, the elderly and minorities to vote.
Alabama’s draconian voter ID law will require citizens to present photo identification at the polls. Additionally, Alabama immigration law requires police to determine citizenship status during traffic stops, essentially exposing Latino citizens and non-citizens to constant harassment.
This is apart of a current national trend. We have seen photo ID laws introduced or passed in at least 15 states, including Michigan.
I believe these laws discriminate against those who do not have driver’s licenses, are disproportionately poor, elderly and classified as minorities. Nationally, these laws could disenfranchise about 5 million voters.
On Bloody Sunday, Americans saw nonviolent African-American protesters brutalized in a police riot. The nation’s conscience was touched and segregation was ended by the passage of voting rights.
Today, we must continue to march. We must march not only in remembrance of the past, but in order to fight against the rollbacks of the present.
As conservatives seek to halt automatic registration on birth, early voting extended voting days, and close polls on the weekends and before and after workdays, we must fight back.
Forty-seven years ago, Americans won a victory for democracy. In this unending tug of war, we cannot let go of the rope of liberty. We cannot stand by and let democracy get destroyed and the suffrage get suffocated.
We have a duty to hold up the dream that is American. We must shape America into a country where all people have equal liberty, equal opportunity and a freedom to pursue happiness.