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Alabama: Voting Rights, Workers’ Rights Top Today’s Selma to Montgomery March

Alabama: Voting Rights, Workers’ Rights Top Today’s Selma to Montgomery March

More than 1,000 participants in the five-day Selma to Montgomery, Ala., march are carrying on their journey today, focusing on the renewed threat to workers’ rights and voting rights around the nation. The crowd began its march at the Viola Liuzzo memorial, some 24 miles outside Selma. Liuzzo was a Unitarian Universalist civil rights activist from Michigan, who was murdered by Ku Klux Klan members after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches.

The march is more than a re-enactment of the historic Selma to Montgomery march carried out 47 years ago by civil rights activists who were attacked by armed officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, says AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists President Bill Lucy. Young people, especially, are joining the march because:

they see the blatant attempt to rollback all the gains they assumed were fixed—gains not to be tampered with. They now see voter suppression taking place in so many different places.

Photo ID laws have been introduced or passed in at least 15 states. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, also a march participant, says such laws:

discriminate against those who don't have driver's licenses—disproportionately poor, elderly and minorities. Nationally they could disenfranchise about 5 million voters. Several states are also pushing legislation to restrict voter registration and to limit early voting.

Lucy, who is taking part in the events throughout the week, along with AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, also points to the new Alabama anti-immigration law that requires police to determine citizenship status during traffic stops, essentially exposing Latino citizens and non-citizens to constant harassment.

We’re outraged that this law passed in Alabama that criminalize so many people in this state and has created a wave of fear. It’s a dreadful law. Something that borders on the South African pass laws of the 1980s.

South African pass laws were a central part of the Apartheid regime, segregating the population and severely limiting the movements of the non-white populace.

Alabama’s anti-immigration law, H.B. 56, is detrimental to the entire state. According to one study, it could cost the state up to $10.8 billion (or 6.2 percent of its gross domestic product), up to 140,000 jobs in the state, $264.5 million in state tax revenue and $93 million in local tax revenue.

As he prepared to take part in today’s events, Lucy surveyed the growing crowd of participants, recognizing people who were there for the original march in 1965 as well as many young people, all of whom “see a need to stand up an speak out against” the attacks on fundamental civil and workers’ rights.

There is a tremendous outpouring of commitment to these issues and recognition of importance of the march and of keeping those issues on the front burner.

Tonight, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will deliver a keynote address on immigrants’ rights and the role of labor in the civil rights movement at a “Unite To Fight” rally following the day’s 12-mile march.

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