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Alabama police attack Selma-to-Montgomery marchers
Alabama police attack Selma-to-Montgomery marchers

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The First March From Selma
March 7, 1965

John Lewis was a key organizer of the march. The 25-year-old son of an Alabama sharecropper was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization dedicated to ending segregation and to registering black voters. The movement practiced non-violence. Lewis and other leaders asked the demonstrators not to fight back against anyone who committed violence against them during the peaceful protest. What did the demonstrators do when the heavily armed state troopers confronted them?

The marchers paused for a moment, then kept walking. The sheriff warned the people that they had two minutes to break up the march, but the deputies attacked sooner. The demonstrators were tear-gassed, clubbed, spat on, whipped, trampled by horses, and jeered by others for demanding the right to register to vote. Television and newspapers carried pictures of the event that became known as "Bloody Sunday."

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