Congregants in Alabama church turn their backs on Bloomberg

"The people of Selma will struggle for the soul of the nation," Bloomberg told his audience, as a number of those in attendance silently stood and turned their backs.

Attendees stand and turn their backs on Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg as he talks about his plans to help the U.S. black community during a commemoration ceremony for the 55th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march in the Brown AME Church in Selma, Alabama, U.S., March 1 (photo credit: REUTERS/JOSEPH AX)
Attendees stand and turn their backs on Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg as he talks about his plans to help the U.S. black community during a commemoration ceremony for the 55th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march in the Brown AME Church in Selma, Alabama, U.S., March 1
(photo credit: REUTERS/JOSEPH AX)
A number of congregants at a South Alabama church stood up and turned their backs on Democratic Nomination candidate Mike Bloomberg as he delivered a speech on Sunday.
Bloomberg was speaking at Brown Chapel, which is part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Selma, Alabama on the 55th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," when civil rights activists clashed with state troopers in the town.
"The people of Selma will struggle for the soul of the nation," Bloomberg told his audience, as around ten of those in attendance silently stood and turned their backs.
"I think it’s just an insult for him to come here. It’s the disrespect for the legacy of this place," Lisa Brown, who traveled to Selma from Los Angeles, told Reuters. Bloomberg initially turned down the invitation to speak, Reverend Leodis Strong told those gathered.
"I was hurt, I was disappointed," Strong said. "I think it's important that he came, and it shows a willingness on his part to change."
But Representative Terri Sewell, a black Alabama lawmaker who supports Bloomberg, told the congregation: "Most importantly, he has earned the right to be in this pulpit and to address you now," Sewell said.
Bloomberg has come in for criticism during his campaign for his handling of the stop-and-frisk policing tactic carried out while he was mayor of New York City, which critics have said were prejudicial toward minority communities.
"It was my mistake, and I apologized for it. I've asked for forgiveness, but I can't rewrite history, and I've got to make sure we don't do it in the future," he said, during a CNN town hall meeting earlier this week.
His fellow candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at the church meeting, where he was seated alongside the pastor, while Bloomberg was assigned a place in the pews. The two candidates have split the endorsements of the leading black political groups in Alabama, one of 14 states holding Democratic caucuses on Super Tuesday in two days' time.
The rivals were joined by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg in being scheduled to join marchers in re-enacting the historic protest walk across Edmund Pettus Bridge, which ended in violence just over half a century ago. The event paved the way for the historic Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march led by Martin Luther King Jr weeks later, eventually inspiring the Voting Rights Act later that year.