By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
There will be a bridge crossing celebration in Selma this weekend – marking the 52nd anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march that helped ignite a movement in America that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act – but a beef between organizers and city officials has prompted significant changes.
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee – a street festival of sorts that is held in conjunction with the annual bridge crossing – will move to the Montgomery side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, taking the events outside of downtown Selma for the first time.
That move comes after organizers of the event, including State Sen. Hank Sanders and his wife, balked at paying a $24,000 bill for fire, police and other city services presented by Selma mayor and former State lawmaker Darrio Melton.
It’s unclear if the move across the bridge settles the dispute. Sanders said at a press conference on Tuesday that he “hopes so.” Melton, however, told The Montgomery Advertiser that he had not been told of the move and that city officials had not heard from the event organizers after presenting their most recent compromise bill.
Melton said the bill was the result of poor city finances which wouldn’t allow for the services to be donated in full.
Sanders, however, said the cause was racially motivated and sparked by a former Selma city council member, Cecil Williamson, who was pushing back against the historical significance of the march.
“He doesn’t have a problem with (Confederate events),” Sanders said. “He’s the one pushing it.”
This is not the first time such issues have cropped up.
Last year, Sanders and his wife took issue with then-Selma Mayor George Evans, who wanted the city to host its own events and charge Bridge Crossing Jubilee Inc. – which is operated by Sanders’ wife and runs the events surrounding the annual bridge crossing – more than $50,000.
The year before that, Sanders and other lawmakers raised issue with President Obama’s scheduled visit on Saturday, saying the visit would conflict with the events traditionally held on Sunday. Those lawmakers initially asked Obama to reschedule. As a compromise, there was no public bridge crossing on Saturday, and more than 80,000 showed up on Sunday.
This year’s events are scheduled for Saturday.