Friday, September 09, 2005

Why They Couldn't Get Out -- The Edmund Pettus Bridge Part II

Forty years ago, civil rights protestors in a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery, were attacked a mere six blocks into their march at the now historical, Edmund Pettus Bridge. They were attacked with billy clubs and tear gas by 600 local law enforcement officers because they wanted the right to vote. The televised pictures of the incident scandalized the entire nation and pushed LBJ into getting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed. Legislation which allowed the federal goverment to ensure that the voting rights of African Americans in the south, trampled upon since 1876 (the end of Reconstruction), would finally be respected and guaranteed. As a sidenote, the Bush Administration maintains that it is an open question as to whether the Voting Rights Act should be renewed, in much the same way Ronald Reagan did before the Congressional Democrats won renewal in the early 1980s.

Last week, there was another bridge for mostly black people to cross in the South. And the immediate stakes were higher -- the issue wasn't voting but survival. I had asked my sister who follows the news closely, "Why didn't they just walk out, why didn't they just leave the Superdome on foot rather than waiting for buses?" We've heard that the National Guard was holding people in. And now I read this sickening account where the police chief of Gretna, Louisiana blocked hurricane victims from entering his city over the bridge from the demolished New Orleans:

"As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move. We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. "

"In an interview with UPI, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson confirmed that his department shut down the bridge to pedestrians: "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged." "

This is George Bush's and his fellow compassionate conservative's "Christian Nation."

On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"