Latinos, the Selma March and
the Fight Against Voter Suppression
C O N T E N T S
* "Latino Group Joins Re-enactment of Selma to Montgomery March" By Salvador Guerrero, Kansas City infoZine (March 8, 2012)
* "New Selma-to-Montgomery march is more than just a reenactment" By Antoinette Campbell, CNN (March 06, 2012)
* "Pro-Immigrant Organizations Join Historic March in Alabama," Latin American Herald Tribune (March 8, 2012)
* "NAACP to call on UN to investigate voter disfranchisement in US: Delegation to travel to Geneva to tell human rights council that attempt is being made to restrict black and Latino right to vote" By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian (March 9. 2012)
Latino Group Joins Re-enactment
of Selma to Montgomery March
By Salvador Guerrero
Kansas City infoZine (March 8, 2012)
Washington, D.C. - infoZine - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - Representatives from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Hispanic Federation, League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Council of La Raza held a rally here Wednesday to announce they would join the re-enactment of the civil rights march. They left after the rally for the 14-hour bus ride to Selma, Ala., to take part in the final two days of the Selma to Montgomery March re-enactment that started Sunday.
The 1965 march for voting rights ended in violence when peaceful protesters were attacked by local law enforcement using tear gas and clubs.
The Hispanic groups will march alongside civil rights leaders to demand the repeal of Alabama's HB 56, an anti-illegal immigration bill.
"We're fighting for the same issue that our brothers and sisters were fighting 47 years ago," Hector Sanchez, executive director of LCLAA, said.
Juan Velasquez, 24, a recent foreign service and international politics graduate of Georgetown University and an intern for LCLAA, said joining the re-enactment of the march is a necessity to lend a voice to the workers who are affected by the law.
"This is really close to me because I am a DREAMer," Velasquez said." "It is important because it will highlight the plight of a segment of the population, that not only has been marginalized, but now it is demonized."
The DREAM Act, which was defeated in Congress in 2010, would have allowed some immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to start a path to citizenship.
Velasquez and his family came to the United States from Columbia when he was 14 years old. He recently was granted a deferment on deportation, which will allow him to stay in the United States for a limited time.
"Civil rights today means pushing back on laws like HB-56. It is important for us to recognize that the civil rights community has embraced our immigrant brothers and sisters," Janet Murguia, NCLR president, said.
"They have understood that this represents a fundamental setback for all Americans."
Murguia joined civil rights leaders the Rev. Al Sharpton, Ethel Kennedy, Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and many others Sunday as they took part in the first day of the re-enactment.
Murgui said it was an important day in the fight against inequality.
"It shows the intersection of injustice," Velasquez, said. "It brings the community together, and it links the African American community with the Latino community to show that we're battling the same oppression."
Rene Dominguez, 22, of Mexico, is in the U.S. on a visa that allows him to intern temporarily for LULAC, said he has a certain understanding of the situation undocumented immigrants are going through.
"A lot of our brothers and family are living in the U.S., and I think the Latin American community should fight for the rights of people living here," he said. "They have to be respected in their rights and in their opportunity."
Voting Rights Act
march is more than just a reenactment
By Antoinette Campbell
CNN (March 6, 2012)
Civil rights activists reenacting a 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, are doing more than just reliving an important part of American history -- they are bringing a new message to an old fight.
Two days after NAACP President Ben Jealous -- along with organizer the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson -- were joined by thousands of people, both young and old, to mark the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, their journey through Alabama continues.
Participants say this year -- an election year -- is about more than just remembering, it's about raising consciousness.
"Right now, we are seeing the Voting Rights Act attacked more consistently across the country than we have seen since it was passed." Jealous said.
Since crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday, marchers are continuing on to Montgomery to bring attention to what they call a modern-day attack on voting rights.
"We need people to understand that not only is history not very distant, but we stand on the precipice of repeating it," Jealous said.
The NAACP leader said strict voter ID laws that won't allow people to vote without a driver's license or passport are unnecessary and will make it difficult -- and in some cases impossible -- for 5 million people to vote.
"We need to make sure that the principle of one person, one vote, is respected," he said.
New marchers -- including a Latina student from Idaho who came with other members of a campus organization called Movimiento Activista Social, and senior citizens from Boston -- all made the trip to Alabama to fight voting restrictions nationwide.
Some older activists came to relive a turbulent time in American history.
As a girl, Amelia Boynton, who was born in 1911, sent a letter to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. asking him to participate in the march. This time, she couldn't make the journey on foot, so Boynton is being driven along the route.
She is joined by another elderly woman who was 11 and a member of the NAACP youth council on March 7, 1965.
On that day, protesters fighting for the right to vote tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were beaten back by police officers and attacked by dogs.
The brutal attack became known as Bloody Sunday.
This month, the Alabama House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution to gather and preserve a collection of accounts from current and former members of Congress who were involved in civil rights marches in the state.
Jealous agrees that is important that people know and remember the legacy of Selma.
"We need people to know what happened," he said. "We need students to know that people risked their lives."
Participants will have walked more than 20 miles by the end of day Tuesday. Once the walking ends, marchers will gather for the evening at Macedonia Church and sleep on cots, NAACP spokesman Derek Turner said.
The march, which was primarily organized by the National Action Network with support from the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, National Council of La Raza and other groups, is expected to end Friday on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery with a call to repeal voter ID laws and Alabama's HB56, a strict anti-immigration law.
Join Historic March in Alabama
Latin American Herald Tribune (March 8, 2012)
ATLANTA --- EFE --- Several pro-immigrant organizations will join the march to commemorate Alabama's Bloody Sunday to ask for a halt to attacks on undocumented foreigners.
The march, which began in Selma and will end on Friday at the state capitol in Montgomery, marks the 47th anniversary of the historic demonstration by African-Americans against discrimination and in favor of the right to vote, a protest that was heavily repressed by the authorities.
This year, however, in addition to demonstrating against laws they feel attack the right to vote, various organizations are also expressing their rejection of Alabama's HB 56, considered to be one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the United States.
"It's an opportunity to unify both struggles and support our immigrant community in Alabama in the face of law HB 56," Adelina Nicholls - the director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, or GLAHR, which will join other organizations on the march - told Efe.
The march which ended in violence in 1965 helped spur the U.S. Congress to approve the landmark Voting Rights Act.
Pro-immigrant activists have pointed to what they feel are certain similarities between the black civil rights struggles in the 1960s and the one the immigrant community is currently facing.
"For many years, the African-American community has been the target of racial profiling, an object of segregation and exclusion and currently these terms, in large measure, are applied directly to the Latino and immigrant community which in many cases is being excluded from educational processes and being denied the chance to be treated with dignity," said GLAHR's Nicholls.
In addition to her group, also participating in the march are the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union.
At a previous event to commemorate the beginning of the march this week, several African-American activists emphasized the need to defend both the cause of the right to vote and the defense of immigrants' rights.
"One of the main complaints of the march is about the suppression of the vote among the African-American community which for years has been the object of racial profiling just like other minority groups such as Hispanics," said the GLAHR representative.
Alabama recently enacted legislation that demands that voters present a photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot, a measure that activists say will inhibit the vote among minorities and the poor.
The state's tough immigration law, which took effect Sept. 28, permits police to demand proof of legal status from all people whom they detain.
NAACP to call on UN to investigate
voter disfranchisement in US
Delegation to travel to Geneva to tell human rights council that attempt is being made to restrict black and Latino right to vote
By Ed Pilkington in New York
The Guardian (March 9. 2012)
The leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, will travel to Geneva next week to tell the UN human rights council that a co-ordinated legislative attempt is being made by states across America to disfranchise millions of black and Latino voters in November's presidential election.
The delegation, headed by the NAACP's president, Benjamin Jealous, will address the council on Wednesday and call on the UN body to launch a formal investigation into the spread of restrictive electoral laws, particularly in southern states. The NAACP intends to invite a UN team to travel across America to see for itself the impact of the new laws, which it argues are consciously designed to suppress minority voting.
The UN has no power to intervene in the workings of individual American states. But Jealous told the Guardian that the UN had a powerful weapon in its armoury: shame.
"Shame alone is effective. The US, and individual states within the US that have introduced these laws, have a vested interest in maintaining the opinion that we are the world's leading democracy. That means something," Jealous said.
In the NAACP's view, the voting rights of black and other minority groups are under more threat from laws restricting their participation at the ballot box than at any time since the segregationist days of Jim Crow.
A recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice estimated that since last year more than 5 million eligible voters had had their right to vote stripped from them.
There are already 19 new laws on the books in 14 different states, which between them account for 63% of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the US presidential race in November. Some laws involve a requirement to show photo identification in polling stations - disproportionately hitting black and elderly people, who often do not have such ID.
Other laws have cut back on early voting schemes, heavily used by ethnic minority and older people, and still others disfranchise former convicted prisoners, even in some cases years after their sentences were completed.
The NAACP delegation to Geneva comes in the wake of a march that is under way from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to mark the 47th anniversary of the famous civil rights march. The marchers, sponsored in part by the Service Employees International Union, have followed Highway 80 - as did the campaigners in 1965 - and arrived in Montgomery on Thursday night and will stage a rally at the state capitol on Friday. The purpose is partly commemorative, to recall the events of 7 March 1965, when about 600 civil rights campaigners were attacked by police on so-called "Bloody Sunday" as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
But this year the commemoration has acquired a distinct contemporary poignancy as a result of the plethora of voter ID laws that have been introduced over the past year, as well as the anti-immigration laws that have spread across several states, including Alabama's own HB56.
The immigration laws require local police forces to arrest anyone they suspect of being unlawful immigrants in an attempt to force undocumented Hispanics to quit the country. Alabama's HB56 is considered the most swingeing.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order today temporarily halting two sections of the bill. But if fully implemented they would make companies that employ undocumented workers liable to punishment, cut off undocumented families from public utilities such as water supplies, and oblige teachers to investigate the status of their pupils.
The encroachment of two such controversial sets of laws across a growing number of states has brought African American and Latino activists together on the Selma-Montgomery march. The union was symbolised in posters carried by the marchers proclaiming: "I have a dream - say no to HB56."
Theodore Branch, 74, one of the original Selma marchers in 1965, was marching again. He said the rise of the new voter ID laws "just carry me back to 1964. They are trying to take the rights away from us again - hell, they don't want blacks or Asians voting."
Kemba Smith will be among the NAACP delegation to Geneva next week. Smith will not be allowed to vote in November's presidential election under a Virginia law that disfranchises anyone convicted of a felony.
Smith was released and granted clemency by President Clinton in 2001 on her 24-year sentence. Clinton was struck by the fact that Smith was convicted for the drug trafficking of her then crack-addicted boyfriend, even though prosecutors acknowledged that she herself had never sold, handled or used any drugs.
The law under which she is still disfranchised today was passed by a Virginia state convention in 1901. One of the attendants told the convention at the time that it would "eliminate the darkie as a political factor in this state in less than five years, so that in no single county ... will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government."