Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama on Sunday to reprise one of the most powerful acts of the civil rights era. But memorializing history was not the only order of the day, attorney general Eric Holder said in a speech inside the church. In a message that appeared to be coordinated with a pre-recorded television interview by President Barack Obama, Holder attacked a 2013 supreme court decision that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act as he called for a new national push for protections for minority voters. This year’s march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Holder said, was a symbolic call to finish the work of the original demonstration of 7 March 1965, “Bloody Sunday”, which set the stage for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Police estimated the crowd crossing the bridge on Sunday at 15-20,000.
“Let me be clear,” Holder said. “While the court’s  decision removed one of the Justice Department’s most effective tools, we remain undaunted and undeterred in our pursuit of a meaningful right to vote for every eligible American.”
In his interview, Obama – who spoke in Selma on Saturday – told CBS he was troubled by photo ID requirements to vote and said the government needed a revitalized Voting Rights Act to prevent ballot box discrimination, the Associated Press reported.
Voting rights were under assault even before the high court decision, with a large minority of state legislatures, mainly in Republican-controlled states, passing new voter identification laws after 2010. Twenty-two states added voter-restriction laws between 2010 and 2014, a study by the Brennan Center for Justice found. Many of the laws were built on template legislation circulated by the conservative activist group American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.