Sunday, March 4, 2012

The New Selma to Montgomery March Begins Today!

Beginning today at 1:30 pm CT, there will be a recreation of the historic Selma to Montgomery March.

In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), organized the march to demonstrate the need for a Voting Rights Bill. Prior to King's involvement the march was initially started but beaten back by state troopers on what has become known as 'Bloody Sunday'. In that march John Lewis, current Georgia Congressman, then leader of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was almost killed. Marchers were tear gassed, trampled by horses, shocked by cattle prods and beaten by billy clubs. Clergyman James Reeb was beaten to death by a bloodthirsty mob of white terrorists.

Rev. James Reeb
SCLC reorganized the march and in one of the most dramatic events in the modern day Civil Rights Movement, ordinary citizens were joined by religious leaders from nearly every denomination, college students, movement leaders and celebrities to call on the United States Congress to enact Voting Rights legislation, resulting in the Voting Rights Bill of 1965.

Today, that hard won victory is threatened by state enacted, Voter ID laws purportedly designed to stop Voter ID fraud. Voter ID fraud was already a crime (at least in Texas). But in the mania to keep undocumented immigrants from posing as actual citizens, state legislatures in Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Georgia among others, are requiring actual photo identification to cast ones ballot.

Congressman John Lewis
These laws require people to spend money on birth certificates or other types of verifications citizenship, to exercise a basic right of citizenship in the same ways one verifies identity for a financial transaction. Of course the issue is voting is not the same as buying a refrigerator on credit. Nor is it a threat to security in the way commercial travel may be. And, of course, neither consumer purchases on credit, nor travel on an airplane or a ship are basic citizenship rights.

And, then again, there are the minute examples of Voter ID laws infractions that are used as the rationale for these laws. For instance, in Kansas, there are nearly 2 million registered voters. There have been fewer than 250 cases of voter fraud - since 1997! The state has discovered 32 voters of foreign descent. That's 32 documented AND undocumented registered voters on their rolls - out of nearly 2 million. In 2005, the Texas Attorney General spent more than $1 million to discover examples of voter ID fraud in 2005. He found none!

Yet more and more, states are citing the need for this type of legislation. Ultimately, it suppresses the vote among the poor, the elderly, college students and rural voters - voters who tend to vote Democratic.

This is the new Voter Rights challenge. It is what the 1965 March was about. It was what James Reeb, Viola Liuzzo and Jimmie Johnson died to secure. This is what March 4-9 is all about.

If you can make it, or if you are supportive of the effort, sign up here. Let Washington know that the rights of citizens cannot are not to be tampered with in an effort to secure an election outcome!

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