The historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama on Sunday held a service before the annual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate "Bloody Sunday," the day when white police officers beat black marchers in 1965.
When former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the stage to address the congregation, he discussed civil rights and voter suppression. According to CBS News, about 10 minutes into his speech, churchgoers stood up and silently turned their back to Bloomberg. They remained standing with their back to him for the remainder of his speech.
The church served as a meeting place for civil rights protestors in the 1960s. The church's pastor, Reverend Leodis Strong, said Bloomberg initially turned down the invite, citing other campaign obligations.
"I think that it's important for Mr. Bloomberg, Mayor Bloomberg, to hear from you, listen to you, to learn from you," Strong told his congregation.
"Let me just say this. I think it's important that he came," Strong said about Bloomberg's change in heart. "And it shows a willingness on his part to change. And I like that, and I think that that is important."
Before taking the stage, Rev. Leondis Strong pointed out that Bloomberg declined his initial invitation to speak because he was “busy defeating Donald Trump”— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) March 1, 2020
He later interrupted Bloomberg to clarify that he thinks it’s important he came because “it shows willingness..to change”
Bloomberg then faced—from my vantage point—10 protestors who turned their back at him as he spoke. He seemed unmoved while and after it happened. pic.twitter.com/2OaA5KqKfo— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) March 1, 2020
Interestingly enough, Bloomberg's seat was in the first pew. Former Vice President Joe Biden was seated next to Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Stacey Abrams and Reverand Al Sharpton.
Meanwhile when Biden came into the church, he was immediately seated behind the altar alongside Rep. Sewell, Sen. Jones, Stacey Abrams and Rev. Sharpton. Bloomberg is sitting in the first pew of the congregation— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) March 1, 2020
Sewell said that Biden has “earned the right to sit at the pulpit” pic.twitter.com/Lh65gZtTEs
During the offering, Sharpton was applauded for raising money for the church. He stepped up to the microphone and said “we raised” some money Bloomberg—an apparent swipe at the candidate for putting self funding over grassroot efforts. Biden laughed along with the congregants.— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) March 1, 2020
Reuters' Joseph Ax talked with one of the churchgoers, Lisa Brown, who protested Bloomberg's speech. She took issue with Bloomberg attempting to buy the black vote.
As Michael Bloomberg laid out some of his plans to help black Americans at Brown AME church in Selma, some audience members stood and turned their backs on him pic.twitter.com/FB3muz5Hou— Joseph Ax (@josephax) March 1, 2020
I spoke briefly with one protester, Lisa Brown, the woman in the foreground, who said they were objecting to what she called Bloomberg’s decision to forgo campaigning and instead try to “buy” the election. She wanted to send the message that the black community can’t be bought.— Joseph Ax (@josephax) March 1, 2020
Alabamans will cast their primary votes on Super Tuesday, when 14 states are up for grabs.