Advance Notice: Briefs

Totten to help commemorate ‘Bloody Sunday’ and passage of Voting Rights Act of 1965

By: - March 4, 2023 5:31 am

American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) and his wife Coretta Scott King lead a black voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. | William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images

Mark Totten, U.S. attorney for Michigan’s Western District, will join more than 30 colleagues from across the nation this weekend to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the Selma, Ala. civil rights march and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

“I’m honored to join colleagues from across the United States on this trip to Montgomery and Selma, home to some of the most important moments in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Totten. “Our work protecting civil rights goes back more than 150 years. The Department of Justice was born in 1870 and tasked with dismantling the Ku Klux Klan, which was terrorizing African Americans across the South. That original charge of taking on hate and discrimination is still very much a part of our mission today. And my office and I are committed to using every power we have to protect these rights across the Western District of Michigan.”

On March 7, 1965, hundreds of civil rights marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. They faced brutal attacks by state troopers, and the footage of the violence was aired on television newscasts throughout the nation. The events galvanized public opinion and mobilized Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965.

In addition to the Selma march scheduled for Sunday, the attorneys will meet with U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The group will also meet with Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons.

A Biden administration nominee, Totten was confirmed to serve as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan in April 2022. He previously served as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s chief legal counsel.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit.