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Presidential hopefuls attend services, march during annual Jubilee

On Sunday afternoon, thousands of people gathered at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in anticipation of the march to commemorate Bloody Sunday as part of the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

Scores of lookers-on held cellphones overhead in the hopes of catching a glimpse of one of the national political figures marching that day, among whom were Stacey Abrams, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg and others, though it was announced shortly after Sunday’s festivities that both Buttigieg and Klobuchar had dropped out of the presidential race.

In previous years, national leaders have linked arms and led the oversized contingent across the bridge, but such cohesion was impossible at Sunday’s event – festival-goers poured into the streets, despite the orders of law enforcement officers and event organizers, making it nearly impossible for one to get through the crowd.

In the end, the candidates pushed their way through the crowd in a staggered, single-file line.

Earlier in the day, various candidates appeared at churches across the area.

At Brown Chapel AME Church, people filled the streets when the church had reached capacity and watched the service on a big screen as various political figures trickled in, including Martin Luther King III, Jesse Jackson, Bloomberg and others.

Inside, former Vice President Joe Biden, who received a warm reception from the gathered crowd spoke about the importance of the Voting Rights Movement,  fighting voter suppression, providing upward mobility to the poor and, centrally, the need to defeat U.S. President Donald Trump in the upcoming election.

By contrast, Bloomberg, who had initially declined an invitation to speak at the church, was treated to a small protest, in which a handful of individuals stood with their backs turned to him during his remarks.

Meanwhile, at Tabernacle Baptist Church, the congregation gathered at the historic place of worship heard from former Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer, who suspended his campaign the night before Sunday morning’s service after a third-place finish in the South Carolina primaries.

After a musical introduction from his wife, Kat Taylor, Steyer took to the pulpit and told the congregation, “I am here because of the cause of justice, which was the whole reason I ran in the first place.”

“I know from traveling this country that there is deep economic injustice in terms of healthcare and education and wages and it’s almost unbearable to see,” said the billionaire philanthropist. “I also know that there’s injustice and it’s here in Alabama. You can’t drink the water in parts of Alabama and those tend to be black communities where you can’t drink the water. And that’s true all across the United States of America. So if we want to solve the climate problem, my answer is start with the water problem and start with the black and brown communities who are being poisoned intentionally by this society. If we want to solve the ecomonic problem, be aware that every single issue has a racial undertone to it that people don’t talk about. Whether it’s education or living wage or housing or criminal justice, there is a racial undertone and that is why I’m for reparations for slavery, let’s tell the truth.”

In closing, Steyer said he would “never do this if he didn’t believe in God.”

“Bless this community for its moral leadership for the whole country and the whole world. I will try to live up to the example that has been set here in Selma, Alabama.”

Times-Journal Staff Writer Brannon Cahela contributed to this report.