Bloomberg was one of several politicians who attended the Sunday morning service at the church commemorating the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” — the tragic day in 1965 when civil rights marchers were brutally attacked by Alabama police.
During the former New York City mayor’s address to the congregation on Sunday, a small group of protesters stood up and turned their backs to him.
Photos and videos of the moment show a group of about 10 churchgoers standing silently in their pews, facing the back of the church. Some had their arms folded tightly across their chests.
Brown Chapel, a historically black church, was an epicenter of the civil rights movement in Selma, serving as a headquarters and meeting place for activists. The church was also the starting point for the three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 ― the first of which was violently interrupted by the “Bloody Sunday” attacks.
Ryan Haygood, president and chief executive of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, was among the churchgoers who protested Bloomberg’s presence at the church on Sunday.
He told The Guardian that he decided to turn his back on Bloomberg after realizing the presidential candidate was not planning on addressing the controversial stop-and-frisk policing strategy that he’d advocated for during his time as mayor.
“I thought this would be the place where he could finally say once and for all, ‘Let me own what I did, let me atone for it,’” Haygood said of Bloomberg, who first apologized in November 2019 for supporting stop-and-frisk, a policy that disproportionately targeted minority communities.
“He didn’t even touch it which is more disrespectful,” Haygood added.
Bloomberg’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, also attended the Sunday service at Brown Chapel ― and received a much warmer welcome than the ex-mayor.
Churchgoers greeted Biden with cheers and applause, CNN reported.
A Bloomberg aide told the network that “Mike sat through the whole service from start to finish.”
“Takes courage to show up,” the aide added.
Following the church service, several Democratic presidential candidates, including Bloomberg, Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, took part in a re-enactment of the fateful “Bloody Sunday” march.
“All of us share the responsibility to honor Selma’s history,” Bloomberg said during his address in the church. “All of us share a responsibility to exercise the sacred right to vote for which so many struggled and died.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.