Several Democratic presidential hopefuls visited Selma, Ala., on Sunday to commemorate the 54th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march in the city.

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.), who have each announced their 2020 candidacies, were among those in attendance for services and a march to mark the anniversary. Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests | Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition tech | FBI warns hackers are targeting mobile banking apps Democratic senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests Some realistic solutions for income inequality MORE (D-Ohio), who is considering his own White House bid, was also in attendance.


The original march occurred on March 7, 1965, when peaceful demonstrators marched from Selma toward Montgomery and were violently attacked by law enforcement as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

On Sunday afternoon, demonstrators again marched across the bridge. 

Earlier Sunday, Booker delivered a keynote address at the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the starting point of the 1965 march.

Booker said during his remarks that the U.S. is “failing its moral obligations.”

“We live in a nation that is failing its moral obligations to its children, to its people,” Booker said, according to Reuters.

“I worry now that we are at a point in our country where we see a moral vandalism that is attacking our ideals and beliefs and eroding the dream of our nation,” he later added.

Booker also said that it is “time for us to defend the dream,” according to The Associated Press.

“It’s time that we dare to dream again in America,” he added. “That is what it takes to make America great. It is up to us to do the work that makes the dream real.”

The presence of the 2020 hopefuls in Selma highlighted the urgency of candidates to appeal to black voters ahead of the primaries.

Several candidates — namely Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.) — have said that they support reparations for black Americans impacted by slavery. Booker’s “baby bonds” proposal, which would give each child in the U.S. a government-funded savings account, could help close the racial wealth gap.

Sanders, meanwhile, struggled in 2016 to connect with black voters and will likely need to garner more support from them to win the nomination in 2020. He has declined to back reparations, saying last week that there are “better ways to do that than just writing out a check” and proposing to invest in “distressed communities.”

In his own remarks Sunday, the Vermont senator noted that demonstrators in the 1965 march were pushing for voting rights for black Americans. Sanders lamented that, 54 years later, people “are still fighting for the right to vote” and called for an end to voter suppression.

“And not only do we end voter suppression, but we make it easier for people to vote, not harder,” Sanders said, according to Reuters.

In addition to the 2020 candidates, Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, also gave remarks at Sunday’s reception. She said the U.S. is facing a “full-fledged crisis in our democracy.”

“This is a time, my friends, when fundamental rights, civic virtue, freedom of the press, the rule of law, truth, facts and reason are under assault,” Clinton said. 

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