SELMA, Ala., March 7 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama praised those who marched for civil rights from Selma, Ala., 50 years ago, saying Saturday they gave "courage to millions."
"Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African Americans, but for every American," he said.
The president, first lady Michelle Obama, their two daughters and 100 members of Congress attended the event in Selma marking 50 years since that "Bloody Sunday" in 1965.
State troopers and a group that came with the sheriff attacked 525 civil rights activists who were marching for black voting rights after 26-year-old activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed by a state trooper during a previous protest.
The president, speaking at the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge, said race relations are still difficult, but added that things have improved since 1965.
"What happened in Ferguson may not be unique," he said, "but it's no longer endemic. It's no longer sanctioned by law or custom, and before the civil rights movement, it most surely was."
The president also referenced the fight for gay rights, which is especially relevant in Alabama after recent actions to block gay marriage in the state.