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Thousands of people crowded an Alabama bridge on Sunday, many jammed shoulder to shoulder, many unable to move, to commemorate a bloody confrontation 50 years ago between police and peaceful protesters that helped bring about the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
A day after President Barack Obama had walked atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge, police said tens of thousands of people had joined the crush on and around the small bridge. Many came from around the country for several events commemorating the landmark moment.
William Baldwin, 69, of Montgomery, brought his two grandsons, ages 11 and 15, to the bridge Sunday so they could grasp the importance of the historic march he took part in a half century earlier.
"They're going to take this struggle on and we have to understand the price that was paid for them to have what they have now," Baldwin said. "It wasn't granted to them, it was earned by blood, sweat and tears."
Some sang hymns and others held signs, such as "Black lives matter, all lives matter."
On March 7, 1965, police beat and tear-gassed marchers at the foot of the bridge in Selma in a spasm of violence that shocked the nation. The attack help build momentum for passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.
On Saturday, Obama joined civil rights leaders and others at the bridge and talked about progress in race relations since the 1960s. He mentioned recent high-profile clashes between citizens and law enforcement on the circumstances leading to fatal police shootings and law enforcement tactics toward minorities.
Groups traveled to Selma from across the nation, including five busloads from Nashville.