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tv   The Stream  Al Jazeera  March 7, 2015 12:30pm-1:01pm EST

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svetlana cannot find a place with lower rent, she'll close all together. >> a reminder you can keep up-to-date with all the news on our website. there it is, the address is that's >> hello your away watching a special report. race in america: selma. >> in the struggle for civil rights across a bridge and spanning generations facing hate police brutality the sting of segregation. it was a march for freedom a
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pivotal moment. 50 years later we remember a week that changed america. with voices call forgive justice now. >> one of the most important issue is to fix this. >> to the message that holds true today. >> we're not going to let anybody turn us around. >> our special report race in america:: selma. >> today is that day. it's the 50th anniversary that changed america forever. black america, white america america for years to come. it became known as bloody sunday, the day that demonstrators tried to march across the bridge in selma alabama. they were headed to montgomery, but they never made it to the end. they were met with tear gas and
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billy clubs. the world watched in horror. today, 50 years later civil rights leaders and politicians from across the country are gathering in selma. president obama will be on hand as marchers make that walk again found the edmund pettus bridge. you can see that the bridge stands today as it did 50 years ago. this time edmund pettus infamous for being a member of the kkk. gentlemen, thank you so much. president johnson ended his speech by saying we shall overcome. did we? >> yes in the sense that african-americans are able to vote in the south. not right away, but over time it has. and i think we have think it
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shows that we have an african-american president. >> randall pinkston? >> he has overcome the barriers in southern states to allowing african-americans to vote. in alabama george wallace was fond of saying that there is no law that says negroes can't vote. there is no law that says that negroes can't vote. but what there was were restrictions. because of johnson at that time and what the americans and the world saw at edmund pettus bridge, the law was changed. >> we're still talking about a supreme court and congress that is making changes to the voting rights acts. and there are critics who say that it's making it harder not easier to vote. you can go anywhere in the world with a card to take out money and the bank knows as much money is coming out of your account
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but with voting its still a sticky wicket. >> the restrictions are still there. >> why? >> because of the residues of a false since--what dr. king called a false sense of superiority. it's still there. we see it in congress and resistence. on one hand it's not all about race but it's naive to say that it's not about race at all. some of the resistence that we see is more de facto. >> before we move forward and talk about today let's talk about what happened 50 years ago. the march to montgomery was meant to bring light to the struggle of african-americans in the 1960s. and despite being beaten by police that day the marchers continued. >> in early february, 1965, the reverend martin luther king jr. and his southern christian
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leadership conference took to the streets demanding the right to vote for blackpool citizens. a move that landed him in jail for parading without a permit. >> things are as well as you expect they are. the result being the creative witness of hundreds, even thousands of negroes in this community, we have been able to bring this whole issue to the attention of the nation, and i think to the congress. >> by the time king was reallied protest spread from selma to marion. a predominantly black town, but where only a handful of african-americans were registered to vote. a march there ended in confrontation with police and the shooting by a state trooper of protester jimmy lee jackson. his death, a week later was the catalyst for the selma to montgomery march. on the first attempt hundreds of
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demonstrators were also met by brute force. when they arrived at selma's edmund pettus bridge, the police fired tear gas and attacked the marchers with clubs. it became known as bloody sunday troopers on horseback charged at the marchs. this time king led the pro session. but they turned back in the face of heavy police presence. that night segregationists beat another protesters to death. james reed was a 38-year-old white minister. his killing sparked a national outcry and led to demonstrations across the nation. the echos of injustice on the streets of alabama finally reached the white house. on march 15th in a televised address to congress, president lyndon johnson spoke out against the violence and asked congress to pass the voting rights act.
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>> it's not just negative grow negroes, really it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. and we shall overcome. >> a week later on march 21st, more than 3,000 people embarked on a 54-mile trek to montgomery. this time under the protection of federal troops walking some 12 miles a day sleeping in nearby fields at night. by the time they reached montgomery the crowd was massive. 25,000 people joining in the struggle for change. and change did come in august when congress passed the voting rights act and president johnson signed it into law. [applause] >> that is our tony harris live on the ground in selma alabama even as we speak along with our
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correspondent robert ray. we'll be joining them later in the program. we're looking live at the edmund pettus bridge, and the symbolism cannot be lost on anyone that the podium is set up for the president of the united states, an african-american president at the foot of the bridge. randall pinkston, your thoughts. >> obviously what happened there laid the groundwork that made it possible for an african-american to be elected. i mean, after all there are not enough african-american voters in the country to elect a president. but without them he would not have been elected. i think his journey there today is to acknowledge that historic fact and to remind the country of all that remains to be done in the name of justice and equality. >> i'm reminded as i look at the images coming out of selma right now, i see the images that came out of selma 50 years today i'm always struck by the people in the crowd and the fact that we
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talk to much so the leaders and people who about in the march john lewis and george wallace but we don't talk about the people who lined that stage and that protest back then, and i'm struck by the fact that i was in alabama in 2006 and that was along the parade route where a man named jonathan daniels was killed. in august of that same year, it didn't seem like 2006. it seemed more like 1965. >> yes i think that in 2007 to book end obama's presidency in selma, he was there on march 5 march 5, 2007, campaigning, he was a senator there. the clintons were there to commemorate the occasion. there is a book "the bridge," and uses the bridge as a metaphor for the book. but what happened in that crowd
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at that time you had brown memorial church on that day senator obama speaking to get the vote. he was a month into his campaign. and three blocks away you had the clintons in first baptist. the crowds were inter percenting inter spersing with each other. but what happened on that day senator obama appealing to the common people of sell marks he made the pitch that dr. king, who was the moses for us of alabama, certainly of the south he said that it's now time for the joshua generation to take over, and he was telling them that he was that joshua. he elect trified them. what happened that day on march 5, 2007, there was a hand off--a hand off between the clintons and the first african-american president, and
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that elect trified the people. i think people are still aware of that, they're inspired about that and their hopes are raised by that. >> randall pinkston, you're a son of the south. >> mississippi. >> the last election that we just saw the states that voted against democrats were voting also against the policies of america's first black-elected president. did they vote against the democrats 50 years after selma or did they vote against the black guy in the white house. >> 50 years ago democrats did not equal the democrats of today. what we have today is a majority african-americans who are democrats in along of southern states because a lot of white people have decided to move to the republican party. who were they voting against? you would have to ask them individually. they might say they were voting against interference of states rights obamacare, i don't want to get into their minds to figure out what they're doing.
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>> let's compare the rhetoric, george wallace segregation. segregation today. and the statement of i want to make sure that barack obama does not seek a second term. >> but mitch mcconnell will deny any racial animous in that statement. he was speaking purely politics. >> it's nuanced. >> denied. >> denied. >> why do you say denied versus-- >> because i think that is the malady, that is the pathology of a large portion of white americans. they deny the same way that mitch mcconnell does not admit it. he does not have to. it has to be drawn to the surface. >> i'm fascinated by how people change. you saw that with george wallace, the man you just talked
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about. >> we found that to be the case more so with this story than george wallace himself. george wallace is rather nuanced. >> the bullet will do that. >> yes, that assassination attempt. as we just mentioned one of the fiercest opponents of civil rights in the 1960s was alabama governor george wallace. he was a four-time governor, and in 1963 i 1963 he famously said, segregation now. segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever. and he survived an assassination attempt, but he would spend the rest of his life paralyzed in a wheelchair. last week i sat down with his daughter, who still live in montgomery, with her husband, to talk about her father's difficult legacy. >> my father never built a bomb
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or hit nick with a billy club, but he created a climate that allowed other people to go and do those things. >> peggy wallace kennedy the daughter of george wallace. >> that's my father. >> the alabama governor, who built his reputation fighting against civil rights. >> and i say segregation now. segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever. [ cheering ] >> well, when you listen to your father say segregation now and all of that, and-- >> that's probably the most racist thing i've ever heard him say. >> that was not the only time that her father's words and actions betrayed racial bias. wallace stood in the door of the university of alabama to deny entry to two african-american students james hood and vivian malone. month loanmalone died in 2005. her younger sister remembers
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threats of violence and death. >> i was all of five and i remember death threats calling of names on that day. >> wallace ordered state troopers to block non-violent marchers on the edmund pettus bridge including john lewis. >> do you remember what you thought, what you felt. >> you know, at 15, you can't believe what you're seeing on tv. it was so horrific. >> did you ask your dad about it? >> no. >> in fact peggy wallace kennedy said she never spoke to her father about his views on race. even though his hardcore conservative speeches made him one of the best known politicians in america. but wallace changed. the turning point was the 1972 campaign for president when a gunman tried to kill him. [ gunfire ] [screaming ]
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>> he would spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. >> i think he had time to reflect on his politics of the past and see what pain and suffering he had caused to others because he was in such pain and suffering. >> in his fourth and final term as government, wallace began apologizing for his views on race. he invited past opponents to his home and office, including john lewis, one of the victims of police violence on the edmund pettus bridge. lewis moved to alabama and was elected to congress. >> i said, governor, why did you give the order for people to beat us? he said, we had to stop you on the bridge because there were people waiting to kill you. i said, governor, do you kill people to keep other people from killing? he didn't have an answer. i'm not really convinceed that
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governor wallace ever really believed all of the stuff that he was saying. i think he used the issue of race to get ahead. >> wallace also met with the two students he had once blocked from entering the universe of alabama james hood and vivian malone. >> did your sister ever share with you being frightened? >> you know what, this is something that continues to emaze me. because of all the emotions she had, fear was not one. i think she never gave in to that fear. she and my parents were people of great faith. and they felt that they were doing the right thing, and that, you know, all would be taken care of. >> aim, fire. [ gunfire ] >> wallace died in 1998. it took another ten years before his daughter decided it was time for her to move beyond her father's apologies towards
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reconciliation. first, she endorsed a young illinois senator for president. >> barack obama said that america could be better. he inspired me, and gave me the courage to step out from beneath the shadow of the schoolhouse door. that was my legacy. >> soon, peggy wallace kennedy daughter of a segregationist governor found herself walking hand in hand across the edmund pett u.s. bridge with congressman john lewis. >> this young lady, she was so courageous and so brave and so farm to greet me. it was very moving. >> one of the greatest honors of my life and that's how i met him, and he is the epitome of when he says that love and reconciliation can heal a heart. >> all over alabama there are plaques, memorials and statues symbolizing the state's troubled
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racial past. no one can change history. george wallace's deeds will always be part of his legacy, but his daughter hopes she can create a new legacy in the family's name. towards that effort a remarkable moment. in 2013, families who once stood against each other finally met face to face. peggy wallace kennedy and sharon malone holder, whose husband is the u.s. attorney general. >> it's remarkable to see what could happen in one generation. >> 50 years ago martin luther king jr. and selma marchers reached their destination the capitol of montgomery to give the governor a petition for voting rights. >> my father was up here in his second-floor office. >> he did not meet the marchers.
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>> he did not meet the marchers. >> you want to meet them when they come back. >> yes, i do. >> why is it important for you to be the welcoming party? >> because i'm a wallace. i'm a wallace but i'm different. >> from your dad. >> from my dad. >> your thoughts? >> you know, we heard june lewis say that he didn't think that john wallace really believed all that he said. >> that struck me, too. >> because wallace was complicated. for all the hate he preached. for all the hate that he generated and the hateful orders he issued, all of his life he had been endorsed by the naacp in his run for govern. why? because in a previous political position when it looked like civil rights, wallace remained
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seated. but after his defeat when he was endorsed by the naacp you know the famous quote i won't say the exact word, but he said i was out-endended, and i will not be out ended again. he took on this segregationist, hateful, anti-black mantle and carried it to national prominence. >> and strom thurman who stood along george wallace had an african-american child. illegitimate. >> but i think in both cases them democrat my gods. the thing that--the fuel that he used wallace and thurmond, and those who converted to republicans, the fuel is demagoguery. they, the spokesmen inflame they bring out the worst
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impulses of those southern whites. wallace was able to do that. now to say that--i don't think that reliefs him. he wants to get re-elected. to do that, what he has to do at that time is to appeal to the worst instinct of the human spirit, which is what he did and which is selma is all about. lincoln would say if a politician, i would say a demagogue, would decide before an election that he needed 100 votes, and if those 100 votes were from cannibals, he would not come out before an election and speak against cannibalism. if the election approached, and he still wasn't sure, he would begin to view cannibalism in a new light. that's what politicians do. >> that is why we have both of you with us this afternoon. our coverage of race in america: selma, is going to continue after the break. we're still waiting word from president obama.
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we'll address the crowd there as they're gathered by the thousands at the foot of the edmund pettus bridge. we'll take a break and we'll be right back.
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>> people on the streets walking. here is my story i'm sticking with it. i did a version of my own walk only in reverse. from montgomery to selma and traffic, as you can imagine so thick. so many people trying to get here for this occasion. the chamber of commerce is putting the estimate at 70,000 people when it's all said and done. at some point traffic is not moving. i jump out. juice are meant for walking and that's what they did for me today. we did our own little walk. i'm channeling a little james taylor traveling the country road, but it is a festive environment.
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the mood is carnival like. it is wonderful, and the weather could not be better. >> perfect 60 degrees and balmy sky. and the security is high. the president is expected to speak at 1:25 central time. >> i heard that it has moved a little bit. >> it is moved a little bit because of the incident in washington, which is still unclear as to what happened, but it should be exciting. we have the first lady, the two daughters of the president, the first lady. >> they'll be here. what an amazing moment it will be to have them here. i'm thinking about the speech and what the president might cover in the speech. robert, it seems to me, and del help me, it seems that the president will talk about where civil rights are in the country. there are a number of events that have happened on his watch that have kind of come together for this moment where he gets an opportunity here on this anniversary to talk about race and civil rights, and in an
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expansive way perhaps in a way we have not seen since 2008 when he was senator and presidential candidate at that point in philadelphia. he'll get a moment to change here. and the advance word is that he'll talk about civil rights, and where we are in the country now, and he'll remind us of 50 years and talk about the work that needs to be done still. >> i think ferguson will be a hot topic as we know. everything that has come out in the past week has been a little mind blowing for folks and clearly as one of the civil rights leaders said to me, he thinks perhaps ferguson is the new selma, only in the sense that not that it was it was a comparable thing but that it could open the dialogue again. the civil rights leader, dr. bernard lafayette, i had an
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opportunity to speak to him. >> he's terrific. >> he was great. he felt that the conversation needs to be enhanced, he feels that especially in the south we've gone back in time a little bit in the past decade or so. >> that's interesting. one of the things, certainly ferguson helps to frame the discussion that we'll have today with all the people that will have an opportunity to talk to, and the president says as well you were there in ferguson. i was there in ferguson, and what comes to mind and what you remember from ferguson when you join in on an occasion like today is the militarization of the police. back there it was ferguson police of 50 years ago. it was the state police here in alabama. and we're talking about 600 people on that day 50 years ago march 7th, who peacefully marched across the edmund pettus bridge demonstrating and protesting right behind us right there for voting rights, and they were met by an alabama