SELMA, Ala. (WIAT) — The White House announced Tuesday morning President Joe Biden will visit Selma this weekend to commemorate the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
One of the event’s founders said he knew for the last few weeks of a “strong possibility” the president could be coming to Selma, but it wasn’t confirmed until now.
Hank Sanders and his wife organized the first Bridge Crossing Jubilee in 1993.
Now 30 years later, the event has drawn tens of thousands of people from across the country and plenty of political leaders as well.
“It’s a pilgrimage for a lot of people, a spiritual journey for a lot of people, and the leaders tend to recognize the power of Selma,” Sanders said.
This year’s event comes just over a month after a tornado tore through the city. Many homes and businesses are still damaged today.
Sanders hopes this weekend sheds a positive light on a community that has been through so much recent hardship and tragedy.
“It’s not a question of just building Selma back. It’s a question of building Selma into the beloved community that people in 1963 and 64 and 65 were struggling for,” Sanders said.
Sanders hopes the president will give a message of hope for the Queen City and encourage others to help.
“I also hope that the President will say that he is going to be a bridge to Selma. He is going to say that the federal government is a bridge to Selma, that he is going to encourage other people to be bridges to Selma,” Sanders said.
The event marks 58 years since civil rights protestors crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge to demonstrate for voting rights. Many were beaten by state troopers — including one of the original foot soldiers George Sallie, who was left scarred that day.
“I was one that got beat here on what you call Bloody Sunday,” Sallie said.
Sallie has met with presidents and political leaders here every year, even being awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“Medal of Freedom. President Obama gave it up to me on the bridge,” Sallie said.
Sallie says he looks forward to meeting with another president and continuing the march.
The White House has not released a schedule of when the president is expected to speak but the current Jubilee schedule says the march will begin at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.