4:55 p.m. PT Jan. 16, 2017
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
These words were chanted by hundreds of people as they paraded from West Salem to the Oregon State Capitol on Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama more than 50 years ago.
In 1965, a march from Selma to Montgomery was organized in response to a fatal shooting of civil rights protester Jimmy Lee Jackson.
Six hundred marchers assembled and began to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge over the Alabama River.
When the protesters refused, the officers shot tear gas and waded into the crowd, beating the protesters with billy clubs. Reports vary, but between 17 and 50 people were injured and hospitalized. One woman was nearly beaten to death.
The protest came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
People from the Salem-Keizer area gathered Monday to re-create the march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
This time, local police offered to escort the crowd as they walked through downtown Salem.
“So often when people march, it is against something,” said Pastor Michael Weaver, with Free Church of God In Jesus Name. “That’s why I’ve been calling it a parade. We are here to celebrate.
“Today was all about us coming together as a community.”
Weaver, along with leaders from To God Be The Glory, Salem Mission Faith Ministries, Pauline Memorial AME Zion Church and New Hope Christian World Fellowship, helped coordinate the event.
As participants walked across the Marion Street bridge, they chanted, sang and laughed with each other. People of all ages took part.
Denise Turner of Salem participated in the parade. She said she came out in the cold because the march was “a worthy cause.”
“It’s about celebrating the life of MLK Jr. and others,” she said. “It isn’t just about black people, it’s about white people and everyone, too.”
Turner bowed her head in prayer after the march and helped lead some of the singing on the Capitol steps.
Local leaders, including Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore and Salem-Keizer School Superintendent Christy Perry, spoke to the participants at the Capitol. Ernest Bethea recited the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech by King, and the crowd cheered and joined in throughout.
“I just love how the community came together,” said Kara Brown, who attended the event with her husband, Jeff, and their children Caleb, 9, Samaria, 8, and twins Isabel and Oliviay, 5. “We definitely want to make this a tradition.”