In the 48 years since the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., the country has moved a long way.
One of the clearest signposts came on Saturday when Montgomery police chief Kevin Murphy apologized to Rep. John Lewis for the treatment he suffered at the hands of the Montgomery Police Department decades ago. Lewis and other marchers were brutally beaten.
“For me, freedom and the right to live in peace is a cornerstone of our society and that was something that Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Congressman Lewis were trying to achieve” Murphy said. “I think what I did today should have been done a longtime ago. It needed to be done. It needed to be spoken because we have to live with the truth and it is the truth.”
Murphy gave Lewis the badge off his uniform, a gesture that brought Lewis to tears.
“We, the police department, have to make the first move to build that trust back in our community that was once lost,” Murphy said. “We enforced unjust laws. Those unjust laws were immoral and wrong.”
Even as Montgomery’s police chief apologized for the past, the fight for voting rights continued. The Supreme Court heard arguments last week about a crucial provision in the Voting Rights Act and appears prepared to strike it down.
Attorney General Eric Holder made a speech on the Edmund Pettus bridge on Sunday. “Although our nation has indeed changed, although the south is far different now, and although progress has indeed been made, we are not yet at the point where the most vital part of the Voting Rights Act, Section 5, can be deemed unnecessary,” he said. “The struggle for voting rights for all Americans must continue, and it will.”
The fight will continue in two states where Republicans are pushing voter suppression measures this week. In North Carolina, Republicans will unveil their voter ID plan tomorrow. In Wisconsin, Republicans are pushing a plan to limit early voting by getting rid of weekend voting.