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Hundreds gather in Selma for 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’

SELMA, Ala. (WIAT) – The energy in the air was electric in Selma, Alabama, Saturday as people made their way to their places ahead of President Barack Obama’s speech. People were excited and liked the message that he sent to America.

“So much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war, the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow, the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge,” Obama said.

Hundreds filed into place to see Obama, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

“We can’t just forget history and treat it like it’s something from the past. We got to learn those lessons and keep pushing and fighting and make things better for everyone in the United States,” Castro said.

Alabama state representative Juandalyn Givan says she was moved by the way she was brought to the ceremony.

“We were actually escorted in. We are sitting there thinking 50 years ago my people, people that looked like me, were actually being kept from crossing the bridge by state troopers,” Givan said. “And to have this experience – actually be escorted in by State troopers, phenomenal officers – he just went out of their way make us feel welcome and appreciated and just understand the magnitude of this moment. It’s a surreal to me.”

Senator Jeff Sessions hopes that people are inspired to use their voting rights after today.

“It’s important to remember that a lot of people put their lives at risk to advance their right to vote,” said Sessions.

After the president’s speech our nation’s next generation was dancing in the streets.

“I think to be able to experience the bridge and the president live, it’s life-changing for them,” said Maurice Stewart. “I don’t think it’s going to take long at all. I think I’ll know on the ride back this was a momentous occasion.”

When the president finished his speech the crowd also briefly broke out into a chant of “Yes we can,” a mantra that has carried out through the afternoon.