Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bloody Sunday Anniversary, Brought to you by American Airlines

Today was the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL. The annual tradition to commemorate the occasion is reenacting the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, minus the whole getting beaten by state troopers thing.

For VIPs and members of Congress, the day began at Brown Chapel, where "the Selma Voting Rights Movement officially started on January 2, 1965, when Dr. King addressed a mass meeting in Brown Chapel in defiance of the anti-meeting injunction." The church holds a commemorative service for the VIPs.

Brown Chapel

Whatever seats that were not taken by the VIPs were opened to the general public. I showed up nearly 3 hours before the service -- early enough to be first in line and one of only 20 members of the GP to get in.

Line to get into the church

The service was an AME Sunday church service, combined with dingataries giving speeches about the Civil Rights movement. The most "interesting" speech was by C.T. Vivian who argued that the reason blacks prevailed over the racist white southerns was because they prayed harder. No, really. At one point he said something to the effect of: "after the Civil Rights Act passed, we went to church to thank god for the passage of the bill. The white southerners who were against it didn't go to church to pray for god's help in their struggle." He went on to say that we have entirely god to thank for all of the civil rights victories (so MLK being a brave and brilliant had nothing to do with it? -- maybe god inspired him, but he certainly did a lot more than just pray for divine intervention). I wonder if Vivian realized just how extreme he was being.

After the service there were a throng of people outside of the church waiting for the march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge to begin.

Outside the church

As a result of being in the church, I was able to get to the head of the pact where the Congressional delegation was. I noticed that there were a lot of people wearing Boeing hats, and I soon found out that Boeing had paid to fly the Congressional delegation down to Selma.

Everyone in a blue hat works for Boeing

Now early in the day I had noticed people who were giving out lit about the an Air Force tanker contract that Boeing and Northrop Grumman are feuding over. This is relevant to Alabama because the tankers could be built here, which would be a huge cash infusion to the state and would create a ton of jobs. And then it hit me: Boeing has turned the Bloody Sunday anniversary into a junket to lobby members of Congress about the tanker contract. I overheard one lobbyist telling someone that his company probably won't even break-even if they win this contract -- they're just doing it to make sure jobs come to Alabama. I almost gagged on my own vomit. It looked liked there were 5 lobbyists per member of Congress. And then the second realization hit me: While the church hadn't let the money changers through its doors, it had done something worse: let lobbyists enter. But then, things went farther downhill.

As the march began to approach the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge, I saw this:

I understand that the event needs sponsors -- I'm sure the city and county could not afford the police overtime -- but really, do you have to let American Airlines cover up the name of the bridge?

I did a little googling when I got home, and found this press release:

This and Boeing left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the day. The whole event had been co-opted by corporations.

I'll leave with you some video on the bridge, including impromptu remarks from Rep. John Lewis, and some pictures.

Heading towards the American Airlines Bridge

Over it

Looking back

Some sexy single

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