BIRMINGHAM — Before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson spoke to commemorate the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on Friday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin claimed some laws still violate certain citizens' right to vote.
The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church occurred after four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members planted 19 sticks of dynamite under the steps of the church. The explosion killed four black girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair, all under the age of 15. It also injured several others.
The bombing received national attention and amplified the push for civil rights legislation on the federal level. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy later that year, President B. Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Viewers filled the church on Friday morning and participated in a service before Jackson's speech. Those who did not make it inside the church gathered outside at Kelly Ingram Park across the street where the service was being projected.
Several Birmingham-area Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), Woodfin and former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), welcomed Jackson to the 16th Street Baptist Church.
All three of them spoke of the bombing as a motivation for the civil rights movement, in which Birmingham played a major role. They also insisted that threats to racial equality are still looming, if not becoming more serious.
"Citizens of this country are still disenfranchised from their Constitutional right to vote," Woodfin said in his speech before the church. "We do not cower. We do not take a back seat. We push forward. We must continue to survive."
Democrats have long accused Republicans of disenfranchising minorities through voter ID laws, such as the law in Alabama requiring citizens to have photo ID before voting in elections. Republicans have argued voter ID laws and other measures battle election interference and keep voting fair.
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