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Diane Nash (center) marches with other civil rights movement leaders. (Screenshot via Freedom Riders/ PBS)

Diane Nash (center) marches with other civil rights movement leaders. (Screenshot via Freedom Riders/ PBS)

Original Selma Organizer Refused to March Alongside Bush

Civil rights movement leader Diane Nash calls former President George W. Bush's attendance at Selma anniversary "an insult to people who believe in nonviolence"

Lauren McCauley

Noted civil rights organizer and activist Diane Nash, who had led the initial walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, boycotted the 50th anniversary commemoration march this weekend because of the "insulting" participation of former President George W. Bush.

Nash told NewsOne Now on Saturday that she "refused to march" once it was apparent that the former president "was going to be a part of it."

"I think the Selma Movement was about nonviolence and peace and democracy and George Bush stands for just the opposite—for violence and war and stolen elections," said Nash.

Nash, along with her husband at the time James Bevel and a handful of others, co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and initiated the Alabama Voting Rights Project, which culminated in the infamous Selma to Montgomery marches. During one attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, activists were violently attacked by local police forces, an encounter that was caught on camera by local news sources and broadcasted widely, drawing national attention to the southern civil rights movement.

During the brief interview with NewsOne, Nash also referenced the Bush administration's use of torture, adding that she "thought that this was not an appropriate event for him."

"George Bush's presence is an insult to me and to people who really do believe in nonviolence," Nash continued, voicing concern that the nonviolent legacy of the Selma Movement would now be "confused."

A vocal proponent of the principle of nonviolence, in addition to her role in organizing the Alabama Voting Rights Project, Nash is also credited with helping launch the initial lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville as well as the Freedom Rider bus desegregation efforts. Because of her leadership, Nash was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to a national committee that prepared for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Back in the 1960's we did not know if nonviolence would work," Nash told NewsOne. "Now we know that it does." Nash said that she thought the Selma March anniversary "should have been a celebration of nonviolence," which she added, was "definitely one of the most significant social inventions of the 20th century."

The entire NewsOne interview with Diane Nash can be viewed below.


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