Selma Fees Too High for Historical Groups?

(CN) – Politics makes strange bedfellows, as the saying goes, and in the historic town of Selma, Alabama, that currently appears to be the case.

A local controversy over rising municipal fees has brought two seemingly divergent groups together on the same side in a fight against city hall.

The April 1865 Society, which sponsors the city’s annual Civil War reenactment, and the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which commemorates its role in the voting rights movement of 1965, are both struggling to meet new event fees.

Organizers behind the annual Battle of Selma Civil War Reenactment recently announced the cancellation of their 2017 event due to “unforeseen city fees.”

The four-day event, which was scheduled to begin on Thursday, April 20, traditionally includes living history tours, live period music and a reenactment of the Battle of Selma.

In a Feb. 1 statement, the event’s organizers said that city leaders had asked for more than $22,000 to pay for costs associated with the event. According to the statement, the city traditionally provided those same services in kind.

“In years past, the city has not charged this event’s organizers, because city leaders realized the event brought tourists and good media coverage to the town,” the statement read.

The Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which is held each spring in commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday” protests of 1965, is also struggling with the increased costs.

Leaders for the event were troubled to learn of the city’s recent request for more than $23,000 to pay for services associated with the Jubilee, which is currently scheduled for March 2-5.

In a video statement posted on Facebook, Alabama State Sen. Hank Sanders said, “In 1965, people were brutally beaten on this bridge for just marching trying to get the right to vote. Now the City of Selma is trying to charge tens of thousands of dollars just to march. They want us to pay to march. Something is wrong with that.”

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton offered his own explanation on Facebook, saying, “I stand behind the city policies that ask private events to pay for city services – these policies are absolutely critical to keep our city safe and continue putting Selma first, which is what I was elected to do.”

Over the years, the Bridge Crossing Jubilee has drawn a number of notable dignitaries, including Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and former U.S. President Barack Obama. It includes a commemorative walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, along with a parade, memorial service and other activities.

According to the mayor’s office, the city provided a second offer to the Jubilee on Friday, in hopes of reaching a compromise with the event’s organizers.

In reaction to the increased costs, both groups have started their own GoFundMe pages. In the case of the Civil War reenactors, their goal is to raise enough money to resume the event in 2018.

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