Biden to spotlight voting rights, black voters on ‘Bloody Sunday’ Selma tour

Biden to spotlight voting rights, black voters on ‘Bloody Sunday’ Selma tour

By Jeff Mason

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will press his case for stronger voting rights during a visit to Alabama on Sunday to commemorate the 58th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when state troopers beat peaceful protesters marching against discrimination.

Biden’s trip to Selma is his latest event aimed at demonstrating his commitment to black voters, who helped propel him to the White House and remain a key constituency for his anticipated 2024 re-election bid.

It’s also happening with Biden’s efforts to pass voting rights legislation in Congress.

President Edmund Pettus will speak at the Bridge, where state troopers used tear gas against voting rights marchers in 1965, along with John Lewis, a black civil rights activist who became a U.S. congressman.

Coverage of the atrocity shocked the nation and helped spark the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“President Biden will speak about the importance of remembering Bloody Sunday so that history is not erased,” White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday. “He will highlight how the continued fight for voting rights … is integral to providing economic justice and civil rights for black Americans.”

Biden has sought to build support for the Voting Freedom Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, bills that would make Election Day a holiday, register new voters and strengthen judicial oversight of local elections with a history of discrimination.

Republicans who control the US House of Representatives oppose the move.

The president, who has said he intends to run for re-election, has tried to shore up his support from African American voters. Last month the Democratic National Committee approved changes to the party’s 2024 primary calendar, with South Carolina — a state with a high percentage of black voters — displacing Iowa as first in line to hold the presidential nominating contest.

In January, Biden spoke at the Atlanta church of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Biden’s visit to Selma follows Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit on the anniversary in March last year. Then-President Barack Obama spoke at the 50th anniversary of the march in 2015 and walked across the bridge with his wife Michelle and Republican former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Paul Simao)

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