On Saturday more than 100 members of Congress are expected to join a commemoration of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, but no member of the Republican leadership will be among them.
Fifty years ago on March 7, 1965 Reverend Martin Luther King and a group of 600 marchers set out from Selma to march to the capital in Montgomery to demand their civil right to vote. They were met at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a Ku Klux Klan leader, by a mob supported by Alabama State Troopers.
Ordered to turn back and disperse the marchers instead asked to pray and were set upon by the mob and troopers, some mounted on horseback. The troopers fired tear gas into the crowd and the marchers were savagely beaten. Among them was John Lewis who would go on to become the Representative of Georgia’s 5th congressional district. Lewis was beaten so badly that he suffered a fractured skull.
Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Representative Martha Roby (R-AL), who are co-sponsors of the event, have encouraged other GOP members of congress to attend with limited success. Roby’s office said that 23 Republicans have signed up to attend.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) who will be attending, wrote in The Independent Journal Review:
“But even as we celebrate what we have overcome, we must not forget how much further we have to go.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing on the steps of the capitol of Alabama in Montgomery at the conclusion of the march from Selma, said, ‘The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.’
He was right, but it does not bend on its own. That is the work of us all.”
A special effort was made to encourage Scalise to attend in to atone for the recent revelation that he gave a speech before a group of white supremacists connected to Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke while he was serving in the state legislature. He has cited a scheduling conflict as the reason he will not attend.
Lewis said that he was disappointed that none of the Republican leadership will attend, noting that former President George W. Bush and his wife are expected to attend as will President Obama.