The march follows the route Martin Luther King took during the historic Selma-to-Montgomery marches of the 1960s, and falls on the 47th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” a particularly gruesome day of beatings during those marches.
Among those attending this year’s march are many of the famous civil rights activists of the 1960s, including U.S. Representative John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and MSNBC host and former presidential candidate Reverend Al Sharpton.
Organizers have stressed unity for racial justice between these famous African American leaders and the Latinos who face discrimination from these laws. Citing both the immigration and voter ID laws, Sharpton yesterday called the bills the “largest affront to the Voting Rights Act since it was put into law 47 years ago.”
Nicole Cairns, the Online Communications Director for Reform Immigration for America, one of the groups participating in the march, explained to ThinkProgress how immigrants’ rights groups view the connection between the different groups involved in the march:
In Alabama, nearly every basic right is under attack – voting rights, reproductive rights, and now welfare. Alabama also passed the worst anti-immigrant bill into law last year, which legalized racial profiling and told an entire generation of immigrants they’re not wanted in this state. Through these bills, Alabama is attempting to disenfranchise low-income, black, and immigrant residents of the state. We’re marching to let them know we won’t stand for this.
Indeed, a study from the Brennan Center for Justice projects that voter ID laws could make it more difficult for over five million eligible voters to vote. Disproportionately, these voters are Black and Latino.
But these laws are not just an affront to civil rights. The immigration bill is also an affront to Alabama’s economy. As the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama has projected, it could cost the state billions of dollars a year in lost agriculture– not to mention the automobile executives from Honda and Mercedes who have been apprehended under the new law.
The Alabama march will continue over the next week, totaling 50 miles. Protesters will gather at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church on March 9 for a final rally.