MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - As dozens of marchers make their way from Selma to Montgomery, recounting the steps of voting rights advocates 50 years ago, the City of Montgomery is making preparations for commemorative events later this month.
Officials are riding the march route through the city, combing over contingency plans and staging areas. Given the historic significance of this march and potential for large crowds, there's no room for error.
"Situations are volatile, they can expand very quickly," said Montgomery Public Safety Director Chris Murphy. "You want to make sure you have those resources coming in behind it."
That very thing happened over the weekend when an unexpected crowd of 120,000 overwhelmed the city of Selma, diverting dignitaries from the bridge and calling for emergency backup from the state.
Due to the impact law enforcement had on the march 50 years ago, Murphy's plans have been carefully crafted to ensure safety and respectful parameters for those along the route. Law enforcement presence will be unavoidable, but officers will be on foot, bike and at various barricades.
"That's a lot easier than having a situation develop and try to insert a police presence," Murphy said. "We don't want to have to react to something, we want to be on the front end."
Murphy said his team made minor adjustments following the weekend's events in Selma but overall the master plan, meticulously crafted with multiple contingencies, still stands.
"This is probably one of the most significant events in Montgomery that you and I will have in our lifetime," Murphy said.
The route will offer entry points for those who want to join the march in progress, for miles or city blocks. The goal is to make accomodations that allow everyone to participate that wants to.
As for intangibles, police continue to monitor hate groups who would want to thwart this effort or unrelated groups that want to hijack the march.
"We don't want to impede on anybody's rights, we are going to give them that freedom but it has to be within the legal parameters," Murphy said. "If not, we will address it."