Selma ‘Bloody Sunday’ honored in Belle Isle bridge walk

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mary Turner-Kern held onto her niece’s arm as they walked over the Belle Isle bridge on Sunday.

“I’m a little tired, but I’m OK,” the 63-year-old from Detroit said after making the trek over the bridge that spans the Detroit River between Detroit and Belle Isle.

Turner-Kern and her niece, Na’kia Jackson, 16, were two of about 100 people who crossed the bridge at 2:30 p.m. Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the bloody confrontation at the foot of a bridge March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, between police and peaceful protesters that helped bring about the Voting Rights Act.

The local chapter of a national nonprofit called GirlTrek organized the event, which was open to anyone. Bell said the organization draws its inspiration from Harriet Tubman, who walked hundreds of miles helping slaves escape from the South in the 1850s.

“Some of our members were able to go to Selma this weekend and some had to stay back,” Crystal Bell, 48, of Harper Woods said before the march started. “We’re doing the same thing they’re doing in Selma right here.”

Turner-Kern said she brought her niece with her because she felt it was something the teen should experience. “I went to Selma in 2007 and marched with President (Bill) Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama,” Turner-Kern said. “I’ve been telling everyone I know about today’s march since I found out about it.”

In early 1965, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council focused on Selma for a voter registration campaign.

On March 7, 1965, 600 people led by John Lewis, now a Georgia representative in Congress, expected to march from Selma to the state Capitol in Montgomery.

But the peaceful demonstration turned violent when police beat and tear-gassed marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Due to the violence, the day became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The attack on demonstrators preceded a successful Selma-to-Montgomery march, which occurred two weeks later in 1965.

The march was commemorated over the weekend across the country, including by Obama and civil rights leaders, who walked on the Pettus bridge Saturday.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

Associated Press contributed.