- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Seventy-year-old civil rights veteran Annie Pearl Avery of Birmingham spent the night alone on the state Capitol steps to show her support for seven days of protests across the Southeast focusing on civil and human rights.

Sitting in a walker that folded out into a stool, she could only watch as more than 20 people, including civil rights leaders and ministers, marched around the Capitol and Statehouse on Friday. The group called the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy plans similar marches for six more days.

“This is how we would have done,” said Avery, who got involved with the Freedom Riders in 1961 and then worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee across the South.

“I’m an old soldier,” she said. But that didn’t stop her from arriving at the Capitol steps at 5 p.m. Thursday and remaining through the march in hot, humid weather Friday afternoon - all the time holding a protest sign.

Avery said many of the gains made in civil rights, women’s rights, educational rights and voting rights in the 1960s and 1970s are under attack. Motioning toward the Capitol, she said, “These people need to understand we are not going to turn back.”

The marches in Montgomery are part of the Moral Week of Action, which is going on in North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Virginia, state Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma said.

Sanders said the Montgomery group plans to march around Alabama’s two seats of government, the Capitol and the Statehouse, each day for seven days. The protest is based on the biblical story of Joshua marching around the walls of Jericho until they fell on the seventh day.

“They marched in Birmingham and the walls of segregation came tumbling down. They marched in Selma and the walls came tumbling down. We believe there are walls around this Capitol and those walls are narrowing the right to vote. Those walls are making it difficult, and not just difficult but harsh, for immigrants. Those walls are attacking public education. Those walls are attacking women in all kinds of ways. Those walls are keeping free health care from here,” he said.

Regional organizer Frank Barragan of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice joined the march to put a focus on immigration. “All we are asking for is a pathway to citizenship,” he said.

The march drew a small crowd compared to other rallies at the Capitol that often draw hundreds. “Our numbers might be small, but our spirits are strong,” Selma civil rights activist Faya Rose Toure said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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