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Alabama re-enactment of King march arrives at state Capitol

March 13, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — A group retracing the steps of civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march arrived Friday at the Alabama Capitol, calling for an end to new ballot restrictions enacted in the 50 years since the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Martin Luther King III stood near the place his famous father addressed marchers in 1965, saying the work is not yet complete and criticizing practices— including voter identification and reduced polling hours — that he said make it harder for people to cast ballots.

“We go all over the world promoting democracy, but right at home, it seems like we are suppressing democracy,” King said.

The re-enactment march was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, first led by Martin Luther King. It called for a restoration of the Voting Rights Act requirement that states with histories of minority-voter suppression get federal permission before changing voting laws. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 struck down the formula that determined which states were covered, saying it was outdated.

Marchers left Selma on Monday after the nation marked the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the March 7, 1965 melee during which demonstrators were beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Weeks after the confrontation, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march from Selma to Montgomery, arriving on March 25, 1965. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law later that year.

King paid tribute to the leaders of the civil rights, some famous and some not, but said the responsibility was on everyone to continue the work.

Segregationist Gov. George Wallace in 1965 watched marchers from a window in the Alabama Capitol. On Friday, Gov. Robert Bentley shook King’s hand and welcomed the group to Montgomery.

However, some people greeted the Republican governor with chants demanding more health care support. Bentley has so far declined to expand coverage under Obamacare.

About 100 people made the 54-mile (87-kilometer) trek along U.S. Highway 80 to Montgomery. A few were in their 60s and 70s and had marched in 1965. Others were born decades after that.

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