President Joe Biden is facing criticism for his walk at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 5 in Selma, Alabama. Biden was with Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson to march along the bridge to mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
On March 7, 1965, white law enforcement from the state troopers and sheriff’s department attacked 600 peaceful civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and beat them with billy clubs and sprayed them with tear gas.
Civil rights activist John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was leading the march with Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The march was to protest the beating and fatal shooting of 26-year-old church deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson by Alabama state trooper James Bonard Fowler during a voting rights march in Selma.
As the group marched from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery, they were ordered to disperse when they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside of Selma. The police attacked them minutes later, attacking men, women and children with tear gas, billy clubs and bullwhips.
The violence broadcasted on television and printed in newspapers nationwide, prompting more protests in 80 cities across the country within days. Martin Luther King Jr. led more than 2,000 marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 9 and finished the march to the capital with more than 25,000 protesters on March 25. The U.S. military and the FBI protected the protesters from local law enforcement, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law five months later, an important issue for Selma activists.
During his speech, Biden spoke on the right to vote and said it was a “fundamental right that remains under assault.”
“Selma is a reckoning. The right to vote … to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty. With it anything’s possible,” said Biden. “This fundamental right remains under assault. The conservative Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act over the years. Since the 2020 election, a wave of states and dozens and dozens of anti-voting laws fueled by the ‘Big Lie’ and the election deniers now elected to office.”
MSNBC writer Ja’han Jones called out the president for siding with Republicans on their resolution to block criminal justice reforms approved by the majority–Black city council in Washington, D.C. before speaking on voting rights days later in Selma.
“Biden’s speech on Sunday made no reference to his incoherent stance on voting rights, and instead relied on his typical rhetoric around voting, name-checking the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis and expressing support for a new Voting Rights Act,” wrote Jones. “His vow to essentially engage in his own form of voter suppression in the nation’s capital didn’t make it into his speech.”
Others on social media noted U.S. aid being sent to help other nations, such as Ukraine. Since August 2021, the U.S. has given approximately $19.6 billion in military assistance to Ukraine.
Others wanted to know where the hate crime bill for Black Americans was. “It’s just a lie for show, he’s not giving us support,” wrote one. “Where is the hate crime bill for African Americans?? Yeah, that’s what I thought!!”
Another person wrote, “March. Rinse. Repeat. Tired of the symbolism without substance.”
One Twitter user noted that Biden’s appearance was just a “symbolic gesture.”
“That’s all we good for is symbolic gestures,” they wrote. “A pat on the head like a dog. It’s sad.” Another replied, “Took the blacks on a walk.”
One person replied, “Man, if black people fall for this again bruh, Ima lose all hope in us ascending lol If shit isn’t obvious we need to start creating our own path, Idk what will be.”
Another person brought up reparations. “The worst part is black people walking with the people that contribute to our downfall,” they wrote. “That Edmund Pettus bridge is a sore wound they keep poking. We’re decades past that. We need reparations now!”