From left, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton Jr., UAW President Bob King and Jesse Jackson lead the way as the 47th anniversary re-enactment of the Selma to Montgomery March ends in a rally on the state Capitol steps in downtown Montgomery.
Thousands of activists representing civil rights groups, labor unions and education organizations rallied at the Capitol over the weekend, vowing to fight Alabama’s tough immigration laws and other issues related to minorities.
The rally wrapped up a weeklong march from Selma to Montgomery, patterned after the epic trek in 1965 that led to congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act five months later. The scheduled noon rally began several minutes ahead of time in order to allow speaker after speaker to address matters of concern, ranging from voting rights to charter schools.
Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry accused Gov. Robert Bentley of wanting to take “existing education money and give it to big businesses without the creation of one job.”
“Lawmakers want charter schools that will resegregate our school systems by race and disability,” Mabry said. “Creating charter schools would cripple our local school systems.”
Large groups of teenagers walked slowly to the base of the Capitol, singing freedom songs and chanting phrases similar to those made popular by their parents and grandparents during voting rights demonstrations of the 1960s.
“We are the dream of Martin Luther King,” sang a group of teenagers. “We are all immigrants,” shouted a group of Hispanics nearby.
Standing on steps near where then-Gov. George Wallace delivered his “segregation forever” inaugural address in 1963, activist leaders castigated state and federal officials they felt were not amenable to minority demands.
“Don’t be afraid of the fear and intimidation used during the days of Jim Crow laws,” said a labor union official.
Wade Henderson, the director of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, got a rousing reception from the huge crowd just below where he spoke. He then called the area “hallowed ground” and expressed his discontent with House Bill 56, which is considered the strongest anti-immigration law in America.
He called it a “vile” piece of legislation — one that has been held up by federal courts to examine — and said it is part of an effort to intimidate “those without power.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was one of the featured speakers, spent most of the week in Alabama, taking part in the march from Selma and being interviewed about his concerns over the anti-immigration bill.
“Our will must be stronger than the suppression we face,” he said to loud applause. “Do not let them break your spirit.”
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