Selma commemorates Bloody Sunday, 50 years later

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Saturday marks 50 years since “Bloody Sunday,” when hundreds of people were brutally attacked by Alabama State Troopers as they marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest racial discrimination in voter registration.

About 600 people participated in the planned 50-mile journey on March 7, 1965.

The marchers were protesting discrimination that kept black people from voting. But as the marchers approached the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state troopers used force and tear gas to push them back.

Television coverage of the event triggered national outrage and eventually led Congress to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which mandated federal oversight over elections in states with histories of discrimination.

Many of the nation’s leaders, activists and celebrities plan to be in Selma on Saturday attending the various activities taking place in memory of the historic event.

Saturday, John Lewis and nearly 100 members of Congress from both parties plan to join President Barack Obama at the bridge in Selma — a bridge that still bears the name of Pettus, a Confederate general who was also a Ku Klux Klan leader — to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

The President plans to arrive in Selma with his wife and daughters to speak at the event at 2:30 p.m. ET, then cross the bridge. Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush also plan to be in Selma.

The day’s program also includes a breakfast and will follow with a parade, music and street festival and a film festival combining the art and talent of local schools and organizations.

CNN’s Douglas Brinkley contributed to this report.

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