As Mike Bloomberg stepped up to the pulpit to speak at the historic Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday, a handful of congregants silently stood and turned their backs to him.
Political and civil rights leaders spoke at the church to mark the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when civil rights activists were brutally beaten by Alabama State Troopers during a march across Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Failed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams sat behind Bloomberg as he spoke. She didn’t bat an eyelash during the silent protest.
Before the service, Abrams, 46, shook hands with Bloomberg, who donated $5 million to her nonprofit voter suppression organization Fair Fight in Atlanta.
Pastor Leodis Strong applauded the former New York City mayor for even showing his face at the church in Selma.
“It shows a willingness on his part to change,” said Strong.
The silent protest was in part due to Bloomberg’s support of NY’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
Critics say Bloomberg weaponized the policy to reflect his deeply held racist beliefs.
Bloomberg, 77, apologized in November for assigning more cops to minority areas “because that’s where all the crime is.”
Bloomberg apologized in January for ordering police to throw young Black males “up against the wall and frisk them.”
And he apologized in February for saying Black and Hispanic males don’t follow instructions at work.
One of the people who turned their backs to Bloomberg was Ryan Haygood, president and chief executive of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
As he stood with his back turned, Haygood thought about the police brutality civil rights organizers faced in the church 55 years ago as they protested for equal voting rights.
“I thought this could be the place where he could finally say, once and for all, ‘Let me own what I did, let me atone for it.’ He didn’t even touch it which is more disrespectful,” Haygood said.
Joe Biden, fresh off his decisive win at the South Carolina primary on Saturday, also spoke at the annual “Bloody Sunday” service.
78-year-old Biden, who has his own racist past to contend with, playfully suggested that Abrams might be vice president someday.
Abrams closed the four-hour service with a speech about her ongoing efforts to register every Black person to vote for Democrats through her Fair Fight 2020 campaign.
Thanks to fat checks from donors like Bloomberg, her Fair Fight campaign has amassed $25 million in the bank.
After the service, Democratic presidential candidates, Bloomberg (left), former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (center left), Amy Klobuchar (right), Senator Elizabeth Warren (center) and Rev. Jesse Jackson (behind Warren) marched during the annual Bloody Sunday March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the violent clash with Alabama State Troopers in 1965.
Buttigieg, 38, who dropped out of the presidential race on Sunday, promised to help make sure a Democrat wins the White House in November.