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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks at the Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast


Selma, AL
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

It is a tremendous honor to be here in Selma today marking 58 years since Bloody Sunday and a privilege to represent the U.S. Department of Justice. I want to recognize the distinguished clergy, elected officials, civil rights leaders, residents of Alabama and the foot soldiers here today. I also want to acknowledge Martin Luther King III, who is so proudly carrying his father’s torch.

Fifty eight years.

Fifty eight years since Alabama state troopers brutally beat nonviolent marchers – and yet we still join together here every year.

There is both profound hope and profound sadness in that.

Fifty eight years – and while we have come so far, we still have so much further to go.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law in direct response to Bloody Sunday, yet today we face some of the most significant threats to our democracy in American history.

The Bloody Sunday march was itself spurred by the beating and murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson by Alabama state troopers, yet police violence remains with us.

White supremacy and racially motivated hate crimes are alive and well. 

Voting discrimination and voter suppression are rampant. 

The conditions in our jails and prisons are inhumane.

But as Dr. King said when those Selma marchers finally made it to Montgomery, we can find strength in our struggles, hope in our darkest moments.

To quote Dr. King:  “Selma, Alabama, became a shining moment in the conscience of man. If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it.”

The Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department is driven by that same belief.

We are committed to defending the civil rights of all people in our country. 

We are using our federal civil rights laws to hold accountable the defendant who killed 10 Black people at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York. 

We secured convictions against all three men responsible for the racially-motivated killing of Ahmaud Arbery. We are holding law enforcement officials accountable when they violate civil and constitutional rights, including Derek Chauvin and the three other officers who failed to intervene in the killing of George Floyd. 

We secured indictments against the four officers tied to the death of Breonna Taylor.

We are confronting voter suppression and have filed lawsuits from Georgia to Texas to Arizona. 

We are fighting for environmental justice right here in Alabama, where Black people in Lowndes County lack access to basic sanitation and are exposed to raw sewage.

We are investigating police departments from Louisville to Minneapolis, Phoenix to Louisiana. 

We are taking on banks that engage in modern-day redlining.

We do this work because we owe a tremendous debt to John Lewis and the Freedom Marchers who shed blood and put their bodies on the line to ensure that we all would have the right to vote.

We take this time in Selma to remember that the march is not over – much work remains to be done to fulfill the fundamental ideals upon which this country was founded and upon which democracy is based.

Know that this Department of Justice will keep fighting for you, all of you.

Thank you.

Civil Rights
Updated March 5, 2023