© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks to the media following Senate Democratic lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo
By Jeff Mason
WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will press his case for stronger voting rights during a visit to Alabama on Sunday to commemorate the 58th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when state troopers beat peaceful protesters who were marching against discrimination.
Biden’s trip to Selma is his latest event aimed at underscoring his commitment to Black voters, who helped propel him to the White House and remain a key constituency going into his expected 2024 re-election bid.
It also is happening with Biden’s efforts to pass voting rights legislation stalled in Congress.
The president will speak at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where state troopers clubbed and used tear gas against the 1965 voting rights marchers, including John Lewis, a Black civil rights activist who went on to become a U.S. congressman.
Coverage of the brutality shocked the nation and helped spark the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“President Biden will talk about the importance of commemorating Bloody Sunday so that history cannot be erased,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday. “He will highlight how the continued fight for voting rights is … integral to delivering economic justice and civil rights for Black Americans.”
Biden has sought to build support for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, bills that would make Election Day a holiday, register new voters and strengthen U.S. Justice Department oversight of local election jurisdictions with a history of discrimination.
Republicans, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, oppose the measures.
The president, who has said he intends to run for re-election, has sought to buttress his support from African American voters. Last month the Democratic National Committee approved a shakeup of the party’s 2024 primary calendar, making South Carolina – a state with a high percentage of Black voters – first in line for holding its presidential nominating contest, displacing Iowa.
In January, Biden spoke at the Atlanta church of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Biden’s visit to Selma follows Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip there last year for the anniversary of the march. Then-President Barack Obama spoke at the 50th anniversary of the march in 2015 and walked across the bridge with his wife, Michelle, and Republican former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.