NEW YORK - A bass-and-snare drum band led a multigenerational and racially mixed crowd of about 250 people across the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the violent confrontation of civil rights protesters and police in Selma, Ala., known as "Bloody Sunday."
Elected officials and community leaders at the front of the procession linked arms as people walking in the "Selma is Everywhere" march carried signs emblazoned with photos of a 1965 solidarity march in Harlem and others invoking the recent high-profile deaths of black men by white police officers.
"We think it's important that people not forget Bloody Sunday," said David Dinkins, 87, who from 1990 to 1993 served as New York's first African American mayor. "To the day 50 years ago officers beat demonstrators marching for voting rights."
"You'd be surprised how many young people don't know," he said. "I'm not sure how many of us would have been willing to walk across that bridge in Selma, getting beat on every step of the way."
Thousands of people have descended upon Selma for the anniversary of the landmark civil rights movement event.
In Brooklyn Borough Hall after the march, demonstrators watched President Obama's televised address to those gathered in Selma. They applauded loudly when Rep. John Lewis introduced the president, cheered when he said America requires an "occasional disruption," and stood on their feet at the rousing end of Obama's speech.
"Being in this room today, all races, people being affected by this speech, made me proud to be an American," law student Rhonda Gordon, 26, said after the speech.
Organizers said the march from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn over the famed span was intended to remind the world that the struggle for equality for all has not ended.
"We're fighting now for not just civil rights but human rights," said Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough president. "The right to housing, the right to employment, the right to health care, the right to not be prosecuted unfairly. All those who feel America has denied them, this is your Selma moment."
Mychal McNicholas, 74, a retired lawyer from Queens, said Saturday's march was yet another example of civil protest he's been engaged in for half a century to bring about social change.
"I was demonstrating in the '60s and we're still at it," he said.
Dianne Waterman, a spiritual leader with a prison ministry in Manhattan, said she joined because she was too young to march in Selma.
"I'm here because I wasn't in Selma 50 years ago," she said.