SELMA, Ala. — Thousands of people crowded an Alabama bridge on Sunday, many jammed shoulder to shoulder, many unable to move, to commemorate a bloody confrontation 50 years ago between police and peaceful protesters that helped bring about the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

A day after President Obama had walked atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge, police said at least 15,000 to 20,000 people had joined the crush on and around the small bridge. Many came from around the country for several events commemorating the landmark moment.

William Baldwin, 69, of Montgomery, brought his two grandsons, ages 11 and 15, to the bridge Sunday.

“They’re going to take this struggle on and we have to understand the price that was paid for them to have what they have now,” Baldwin said.

On March 7, 1965, police beat and tear-gassed marchers at the foot of the bridge in Selma. The attack helped build momentum for passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at Brown Chapel AME Church Sunday, drew parallels, without being explicit, between the events of 1965 and today. He noted that the “Bloody Sunday” march was sparked by the murder of activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, “an unarmed, young black man.”

“An unarmed, young black man,” he repeated.


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