Chicago represented at Selma, Ala., march anniversary

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

SELMA, Ala. (WLS) -- A big crowd from the Chicago area is in Selma, Ala., to mark the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march that erupted in police violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It is a weekend filled with emotion, memories and hope, as thousands made their way to Selma to pay tribute and to honor.

Among the throngs who made what some called the pilgrimage to Selma were busloads of Chicagoans, all anxious to witness part of this American history.

"It brought just back so many memories, so many frightening memories, too. I can remember my dad and my parents talking about not maybe traveling during the South during the '60s because it was fearful to do that as African Americans," said Linda Gresham.

VIDEO: Chicagoans travel to Selma for march anniversary

Hundreds of people from the Windy City joining nationally-known celebrities and political figures, many reminding the crowd that the violence that led to "Bloody Sunday" all started with an effort to protect voting rights.

"The Voting Rights Act of '65 has been gutted by Section 4. We had the protected right to vote in 1965, now we have the unprotected right to vote," said Rev. Jesse Jackson.

But others in the Illinois congressional delegation said Saturday's events transcend the political.

"This is an American issue. This is about human rights, this is about voting rights, this is about civil rights, and to be able to be down here with those foot soldiers is really incredible," said Rep. Bob Dold (R).

Chicagoans are especially proud of talk about the city's place in the civil rights movement.

"Historically my family is from Alabama and they were participants in the civil rights, even as they migrated up north, participated in the march with Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington Park. I was a little girl, but just being here makes me revisit that moment when they used to talk about it. I didn't understand it, but I get it now," said Marguerite Wilder.

Above all, the entire weekend honors those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago, including former Chicago Ald. Dorothy Tillman.

"We didn't expect to be beaten that day. I was with the first wave, that's what I was on the bridge when the beating happened. We had several waves. We were going to fill up the jails, but that day they decided to beat us. When I see the state troopers say, 'How you do, ma'am?' And I think about those same state troopers, all you could see was a sea of blue. And I see the young people here, I just want them to get the story and to know what price was paid and the dedication that we had," she said.

The crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge will be recreated on Sunday. People say they are hoping to cross over to a brighter future.

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