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Clanton man participates in civil rights march commemoration

Published 2:24pm Monday, March 11, 2013

Like he has many times in the past, Robert Binion participated in the commemoration of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march by civil rights activists.

This time, Binion said, he was among a larger group than ever.

“There were more there this time than I had ever seen,” said Binion, a Clanton resident.

Binion was in Selma for the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” when state and local law enforcement beat back activists headed for Montgomery on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The activists eventually reached the state Capitol with the protection of federal soldiers.

The annual commemoration begins with the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. This year’s event was attended by Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. John Lewis, who was among those attacked in 1965.

Those who want to keep civil rights issues at the forefront then make the trek from Selma to Montgomery, where they are greeted at the Capitol by politicians and other leaders.

Binion said some of the issues activists protested in the 1960s are still present, but new ones have emerged, such as the Alabama Accountability Act, which was passed by the state Legislature but awaits a ruling from the state’s Supreme Court on whether its passage was unlawful.

Another pertinent issue is Shelby County’s challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires some jurisdictions to obtain “pre-clearance” from the U.S. Justice Department before changes are made to any voting qualification, standard, practice or procedure.

Shelby County officials have argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the provision is no longer needed, but Binion disagrees.

“That would be like saying the Constitution has been in place long enough,” he said.

Binion said there were about 10-15 Chilton County residents participating in the events in Selma and Montgomery. He has traditionally voiced support for a lawsuit claiming black farmers were discriminated against in the awarding of loans by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Binion said he carried a sign at the march commemoration that read, “Keep Section 5, pay the black farmer, and God help us all.”

“I want my children and grandchildren to know, we have come a long way, but there are still these (discriminatory) laws on the books,” Binion said about the importance of marking the civil rights event each year. “We’re just trying to get folks to see that we want justice for all people.”

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