“ If you are beaten tomorrow, you must turn the other cheek ”: Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965
On March 8, 1965, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. told the walkers heading for Montgomery, Ala., the next day, “If you’re beaten tomorrow, you’ve got to turn the other cheek.”
King’s comment came just hours after hundreds of blacks attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery to fight for the right to vote.
During this attempted trip on March 7, 1965, the marchers – led by Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee – were greeted by law enforcement officers with gas tear gas and clubs.
The violence came less than a month after a black protester, Jimmie Lee Jackson, 26, who was trying to protect his mother, was shot dead by police on February 18, 1965 in Marion, Alabama. He died on February 26.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act had been passed seven months earlier.
Of history.comIn response, civil rights leaders planned to take their case directly to Alabama Governor George Wallace during a 54-mile march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.
Although Wallace ordered state soldiers to “ use whatever measures necessary to prevent a march, ” about 600 voting rights activists left Brown Chapel AME Church on Sunday, March 7.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who had met with President Lyndon Johnson two days earlier to discuss voting rights legislation, remained back in Atlanta with his own congregation and planned to join the marchers en route the next day. .
Protesters marched quietly through Selma.
But as they began to cross the bridge over the Alabama River, the marchers could see trouble on the other side – state soldiers with clubs and white spectators waving Confederate flags. Across the bridge was the name of the “famous great dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, Edmund Pettus,” according to history.com.
Major John Cloud, using a megaphone, warned the walkers that continuing could affect their safety. They were told to go home.
The walkers held on. State soldiers, wearing gas masks, advanced, knocked the marchers to the ground and hit them with sticks. Members of Parliament on horseback chased the marchers, swinging clubs, whips and rubber tubes wrapped in barbed wire.
The attack was captured by television cameras and when it was broadcast that evening, viewers “were appalled by the sights and sounds of Bloody Sunday. “
At a federal hearing as protesters sought protection for their march to Montgomery, Lewis said he was punched in the head by a soldier with a billy club. He was thrown to the ground. When he tried to get up he said he had been hit again.
According to history.com, “‘Bloody Sunday’ outrage swept across the country. Supporters staged sit-ins, roadblocks and demonstrations in solidarity with protesters for the right to vote. Some even made it to Selma where, two days later, King attempted another march but, to the dismay of some protesters, turned around when soldiers again blocked the highway at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Eventually, after a federal court order authorized the protest, voting protesters left Selma on March 21 under the protection of federalized National Guard troops. Four days later, they reached Montgomery with a crowd of 25,000 by the time they reached the steps of the Capitol.
In The Patriot of March 8, 1965, the Associated Press reported that 35 people had been treated in hospitals in Selma, mainly for exposure to tear gas.
The leader of the march, Williams, had asked if he could speak to Cloud, but Cloud told him, “You can disperse or go back to church or we’ll break it. There is nothing to say.
The Associated Press wrote that the soldiers fired tear gas at the crowd and “acted on the governor’s order to use all means necessary to stop the struggle march to vote.”
The soldiers chased the blacks across an open field, the white spectators cheered and the rest of the day was “chaotic.”
That evening, the sheriff advised residents over the radio to “stay home, off the streets, and out of dark places.”
When the group of protesters was “turned back”, the report stated that they were “parked by officers”.
The marchers were forced back down from the bridge and the officers on horseback forced them “on the sidewalks in the city center, placing them against the buildings with their horses”.
On the night of the second attempted march, March 9, Boston civil rights activist James Reeb, who was a Unitarian Universalist minister, was assassinated after being beaten to death.
The third time the march was attempted, on March 21, President Lyndon Johnson pledged to ensure the protection of the marchers. He activated the Alabama National Guard, FBI agents, and Federal Marshals. The group arrived in Montgomery on March 24 at the State Capitol on March 25.
“The events in Selma galvanized public opinion and mobilized Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson enacted on August 6, 1965. Today, the bridge that served as the backdrop at ‘Bloody Sunday’ still bears the name of a white supremacist, but now it’s a symbolic civil rights milestone.