SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Thunder rolling above Brown Chapel AME Church, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker warned Sunday of a looming threat to American democracy and called for protecting the legacy of the civil rights movement with love and action.
"It's time for us to defend the dream," Booker said in a keynote speech at Brown Chapel, which two generations ago was the starting point of a peaceful demonstration in support of voting rights that ended in beatings on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The infamous "Bloody Sunday" on March 7, 1965, galvanized support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act that year.
"It's time that we dare to dream again in America. That is what it takes to make America great. It is up to us to do the work that makes the dream real," said Booker, a New Jersey senator and one of three White House hopefuls who participated in events commemorating the march.
Saying America faces challenges, Booker said: "People want to make it just about the people in the highest offices of the land. . People who traffic in hatred, people in office that defend Nazis or white supremacists, people that point fingers and forget the lessons of King. What we must repent for are not just the vitriolic words and actions of bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of good people."
Also visiting Selma on Sunday were Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Joining them was Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee in 2016. Booker and Brown, along with Clinton and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, marched with dozens of others Sunday afternoon to Edmund Pettus Bridge. Sanders had left for a campaign event in Chicago.
The throng of marchers had set out from the church and sang freedom songs under a stormy sky as they headed to that sacred spot over the Alabama River to commemorate the peaceful protesters who were met with tear gas and clubs wielded by state troopers.
This year's commemoration came in the early days of a Democratic presidential primary campaign that has focused heavily on issues of race.