Marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” was “absolutely electric” for Fresno City Council President Oliver Baines III.
Baines walked across the bridge in Selma, Alabama about an hour after President Barack Obama spoke in the place where civil rights leaders were beaten by police half a century ago.
“There was thousands and thousands of people there, almost as far as the eye could see, awaiting the march from the president,” Baines said.
Baines was invited to partake in the commemoration by Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno. He walked with about 90 members of Congress.
He called the experience “absolutely amazing and very sobering.”
“I walked away feeling a tremendous sense of honor for people like Congressman Lewis (then-civil rights leader John Lewis, who was beaten on the bridge in 1965), who was so courageous to do this at such a young age — risk his life to be able to vote and have equal rights,” Baines said. “And also I am reinvigorated to encourage people to vote. I think the fact that we are voting in such low numbers is appalling and embarrassing.”
Baines, who was born 10 years after “Bloody Sunday,” also thought as he marched across the bridge about current issues, like police shootings of unarmed black men in places like Ferguson, Missouri.
“It’s impossible to go through this experience and not think of current events,” said Baines, adding that Obama’s remarks about Ferguson have all been appropriate. Baines said it’s as important as ever to be “ever so mindful” of threats to civil liberties.
“You see how quickly our nation can begin to unravel,” Baines said. “We want to celebrate the fact that progress has been made but at the same time … we really can’t forget and rest on the laurels of the past.”