WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Attendees of Brown Chapel in Selma explicitly showed disapproval with Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg as he speaks in the church’s Bloody Sunday commemoration ceremony.
- The pastor said that he invited Bloomberg so he could listen to the people and learn what matters to the people in Selma.
- Presidential candidate Joe Biden also spoke at the service but gained positive reception from the crowd.
A group of at least nine people turned their backs on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Democratic presidential candidate, as he spoke in a commemoration ceremony for the Bloody Sunday march in the historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama.
Bloody Sunday is a historic civil rights march in 1965 where 17 people were injured by police as they attempted to cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge during their march to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand the right to vote for black people.
Bloomberg’s talk about his Greenwood Initiative—launched in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in January to address the systemic bias that has kept many black Americans from gaining wealth—prompted church attendees to stand up and turned their backs on him.
The former mayor was the first Democratic presidential candidate to address the congregation Sunday.
In introducing Bloomberg to the congregation, Rev. Leodis Strong said that when he first invited him to Brown Chapel, the presidential hopeful said that he had no time due to hectic campaign activities.
Strong said that he first felt disappointed with the response, but said that “some of (Bloomberg’s) people reached out,” so he “thought it was important for Mayor Bloomberg on his journey wherever he ends up, that before he gets there and on his way there, it is important that he has the opportunity to listen to and learn from people like you, and you, and me, and this one.”
He added that he thinks it’s important for the mayor to hear from the people, listen to them and learn from them. It was an opportunity to inform the former mayor about what matters to the people in Selma.
Before Bloomberg’s remarks, the pastor addressed the congregation again, saying, “I think it’s important that he came…And it shows a willingness on his part to change…And I think that that’s important. And I want to thank him for coming, for being here.”
Bloomberg’s aide also acknowledged Bloomberg’s effort to sit through the whole service from start to finish, when requested by CNN to comment on the incident in the church.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who also spoke at the service, received an entirely different reaction from the crowd.
The congregation was heard cheering and clapping as Biden appeared in the church. He sat in a chair in the center, behind the pulpit and next to Rev. Al Sharpton, and Alabama Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, who has endorsed him, while Bloomberg observed the service from the front pew.