Political tension over the state of Alabama’s controversial voter ID law prompted Rev. William Barber, leader of the Moral Mondays Movement along with about two dozen others to walk out of an event commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the March on Selma.
Barber was scheduled to speak along with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church on Sunday. But Barber and others, alarmed that Merrill promoted the law from the pulpit got up and walked out.
“We want to make sure that every eligible U.S. citizen that is a resident of Alabama is registered to vote and has a photo ID so they can participate in the electoral process at they level that they want to participate,” said Merrill, who was a co-sponsor of the bill.
But angered that Merrill brought up the law during a moment meant to remember the historical “Bloody Sunday” incident at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in which Civil Rights leaders marched for voting rights, but were attacked by policemen.
“It’s disrespectful for the Secretary of State of Alabama to come to this sacred house of worship to promote a dangerous photo ID law. How much blood is on the pews in this church crying out and telling us not to be silent? We are standing on historic and sacred ground,” Barber, who is president of the North Carolina NAACP, said in a statement.”Our challenging him in a house of truth and justice is not personal, it’s policy. The history of Selma and the history of this church can’t allow us to be silent, normalize or allow this in a sacred space.”
Barber spoke further on the issue after he walked out of a church on a Facebook Live video.
Merrill has been an opponent of tools that would make voting easier in Alabama, including an automatic voter registration proposal that would allow people to be automatically registered when they turn 18. “I don’t think that just because your birthday comes around, that you ought to be registered to vote,” he said during an interview for the documentary “Answering the Call.” saying the work of civil rights icons like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Rep. John Lewis would be “cheapened” with any such law.
On Sunday, participants in the commemorative service at Brown A.M.E., which was a crucial institution in the Selma march, re-enacted the demonstration with a new march across the bridge, which has become an annual event.