“We’re fighting now for not just civil rights, but human rights,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who led the march. “The right to housing, the right to employment, the right to healthcare, the right to not be prosecuted unfairly. All those who feel America has denied them, this is your Selma moment.”
Saturday’s march was one of a number of events across the country this week in remembrance of the 1965’s event, the Alabama march at which over 600 peaceful civil rights activists were beaten and tear-gassed during protest.
The march was a seminal moment in the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law later that year.
The anniversary falls amidst galvanized discussions nationwide on racial discrimination after a string of highly publicized deaths of African-American men at the hands of white police officers in recent months.
On Saturday, the names of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, two local men who met such a fate and whose names have been invoked in calls for racial justice, were repeated often, and emblazoned on signs.
“As we march for all those who died [in Selma], we must march for New York,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “For all those who have died at the hand of the police. We must march because justice never stops.”
And while marchers linked arms over a shared pursuit of justice on Saturday, the wrongs they called upon justice to rectify were as diverse as the people who gathered.
“Today all groups march together,” said Adams, calling for marchers to end the chant “I am Selma” with what they had come to march for.
“I’m marching today for public education,” said Councilman Mark Treyger.
L. Joy Williams, president of the Brooklyn NAACP, said issues of justice and equality were paramount to the country’s identity as a whole.
“We cannot be the land of opportunity unless everyone has the opportunity to feed their families, to have a job and a home,” she said.
At around noon, Adams linked arms with civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, Dr. Karen S. Daughtry, wife of prominent pastor Reverend Dr. Herbert Daughtry, and State Senator Jesse Hamilton, and with 500 people behind him began marching the bridge, leading crowds to Borough Hall where they watched a live stream of President Obama’s speech to the nation from the site of the Selma march.
“As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation,” Obama said during his speech. “The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations. The leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.”
This was palpable on Saturday, as wind-whipped marchers both young and old, including those who were alive for “Bloody Sunday” and those barely born when Obama took office, trickled into Borough Hall.
“My leg’s in a little pain,” said Lorna Knight, who has arthritis in one leg and uses a cane, but marched the entirety of the bridge nonetheless. “But I’m here for justice. Black lives matter. We deserve the same respect and justice as everyone else. The same red blood courses through everyone’s veins.”
So, too, said a fellow marcher, eight-year-old Joie Solomon.
“I’m here to support equal rights and justice,” she said.