Selma marchers were ordinary people - Obama

2015-03-08 12:12
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Mandel Ngan, AP)

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Mandel Ngan, AP)

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Washington - Barack Obama, the first African-American president, and his family led a memorial procession Saturday across a bridge in Selma, Alabama, scene of an notorious attack on civil-rights marchers in the then-segregated US South.

On 7 March 1965, a phalanx of police and a crowd of jeering segregationists waited across Edmund Pettus Bridge for 600 people embarking on an 86km march from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery, to demand voting rights for African-Americans. The peaceful protesters were teargassed and beaten with clubs, leaving dozens injured.

Television footage of the violence galvanized US national opinion, provoking further marches in Alabama and passage within months of the Voting Rights Act.

"It was not a clash of armies but a clash of wills - a contest to determine the true meaning of America," Obama said on Saturday at the 50th anniversary observance in Selma.

"We gather here to honour the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their north star and keep marching towards justice."

The Alabama River bridge, named for a Confederate general from the 1861-65 American Civil War who became a leader of the violently racist Ku Klux Klan and was elected to the US Senate from Alabama, was the backdrop for Obama's remarks.

The White House said 40 000 people attended the gathering.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us

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