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Voting rights are under attack, Attorney General Merrick Garland says in Alabama on anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’

SELMA, Ala. — Attorney General Merrick Garland told parishioners at a Selma church service commemorating the 59th anniversary of the attack by Alabama law officers on Civil Rights demonstrators that voting rights are endangered in much of the nation.

Garland told a Bloody Sunday service that decisions by the Supreme Court and lower courts since 2006 have weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed in the wake of the police attack. The demonstrators were beaten by officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, as they tried to march across Alabama in support of voting rights. Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the annual march across the bridge on Sunday afternoon.

The march and Garland’s speech are among dozens of events during the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which began Thursday and culminates Sunday.

Garland said the rulings have endangered the voting rights of Black Americans.

“Since those (court) decisions, there has been a dramatic increase in legislative measures that make it harder for millions of eligible voters to vote and to elect representatives of their choice,” Garland told worshippers at Selma’s Tabernacle Baptist Church, the site of one of the first mass meetings of the voting rights movement.

“Those measures include practices and procedures that make voting more difficult; redistricting maps that disadvantage minorities; and changes in voting administration that diminish the authority of locally elected or nonpartisan election administrators,” he said. “Such measures threaten the foundation of our system of government.”

Harris will speak at a rally at the bridge after the march about “the legacy of the civil rights movement, address the ongoing work to achieve justice for all, and encourage Americans to continue the fight for fundamental freedoms that are under attack throughout the country.”

Khadidah Stone, 27, part of a crowd gathered at the bridge Sunday in light rain before the march, sees the work of today’s activists as an extension of those who were attacked in Selma in 1965. Stone works for the voter engagement group Alabama Forward, and was a plaintiff in the Voting Rights case against the state that led to creating a second Alabama congressional district with a substantial number of Black voters. Voters will cast their first ballots in that district on Tuesday.

“We have to continue to fight, because they (voting rights) are under attack,” Stone said.

The Selma commemoration is a frequent stop for Democratic politicians paying homage to the voting rights movement. Some in the crowd gathered to see Harris voice apprehension about the upcoming November election and what appears to be a looming rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.