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Glenn Beck Rally in D.C. Saturday: Honoring MLK's Legacy -- or Hijacking It?

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Forty-seven years ago today, hundreds of thousands of Americans joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and witnessed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech, which summed up the hopes of generations.

Today, crowds are repeating that trek – by bus, train, car and plane -- to the nation's capital, with their own hopes and dreams about what America should stand for.

Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin -- two conservative stars known more for their divisive political views than for their King-like stands for social justice -- will lead Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally to pay tribute "to America's service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth and honor."

At the same time, the National Action Network plans a "Reclaim the Dream" rally in Washington to honor King and the civil rights movement in its own way. Its leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, acknowledges Beck's right to rally, but not his claim to a part of King's legacy.

One thing all sides and Glenn Beck himself can agree on: Beck is not Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nevertheless, when Beck and Palin speak to a crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, just like that day in 1963, the symbolism will be unmistakable.

Cindy Spyker, who is driving a group of 10 from Charlotte, N.C, has been to Washington before, for the 9/12 taxpayer rally last year and the protest of the health care reform bill. A member of CAUTION (Common Americans United to Inspire Our Nation), she said Beck is "one of the very few people willing to say what needs to be said, whether people like it or not. America was created on Christian-Judeo values." The country has "turned away from faith," she said, and "has to get back to principles like honor." Spyker, 51, said of today's rally: "Of course, it's not so much the civil rights thing. What he's trying to get across -- content of character -- is not about what we look like. It's about who we are and how do we conduct ourselves, especially when people aren't watching."

Marette Parker will be taking a bus from Charlotte to a different Washington destination. Parker, 42, who is organizing a North Carolina chapter of National Action Network, is attending the group's rally, starting at Dunbar High School and followed by a march to the site of the proposed King Memorial, which she said is "long overdue."

Parker said that if King were alive today, he would "be proud that times have changed," but would be saddened by problems that still exist. "We all have to come together as a community," she said, "to mentor and motivate our young people." She thinks Beck's rally is "trying to hijack this particular day and steal media coverage," she said. "We can't let this happen."

On his radio show Wednesday, Beck said: "I know that people are going to hammer me because they're going to say, 'It's no Martin Luther King speech.' Of course it's not Martin Luther King. You think I'm Martin Luther King?" He said he has prepared only a few talking points so he doesn't get in the way of "the spirit." Though he has said the date wasn't chosen with the anniversary in mind, when he found out he called the coincidence "divine providence."

Whites "do not own" the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, and "blacks don't own Martin Luther King," Beck said on his show in June. "Not only is the event non-political, we have continuously encouraged those attending to avoid bringing political signs, political flyers, 'I heart the RNC' T-shirts and other similar partisan paraphernalia. There are plenty of opportunities to talk about politics. This isn't one of them."

On his show, Beck has called President Obama "a racist." Palin, the program's other main draw, recently defended Dr. Laura Schlessinger when the radio host was criticized for, among other things, repeatedly saying the N-word while answering an African-American caller's question. "I, and obviously many others, have been 'shackled' too by people who play games with false accusations, threats, frivolous lawsuits, misreporting, etc., in an effort to silence those with whom they disagree," Palin wrote on Facebook, and was promptly taken to task by black Republicans.

"For Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to have a march, they have the right to do so," the Rev. Al Sharpton said in the Washington Post. "Many of us suspect they are using the symbolism of that day in a way that does not reflect what the day is about."

Speakers listed in a National Action Network release include: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Martin Luther King III, president of the Center for Nonviolent Social Change; TV and radio host Ed Schultz; radio host Tom Joyner; NAACP President Benjamin Jealous; Melanie L. Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Urban League President Marc Morial. Beck's plans are "an effort to embarrass and poke a finger in the eye of the civil rights community," Morial said in the Post, "because Glenn Beck and his public utterances don't necessarily demonstrate a consistency with the vision of King."

Martin Luther King III
was cautiously conciliatory in his Post opinion piece. "My father championed free speech," he wrote. "He would be the first to say that those participating in Beck's rally have the right to express their views. But his dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination, whether directed at race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation or political beliefs. He envisioned a world where all people would recognize one another as sisters and brothers in the human family."

Beck's rally will feature its own King relative, Dr. Alveda King, the niece of the late civil rights leader, who is the director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life and the founder of King for America. The anti-abortion activist wrote in the Christian Science Monitor: "The rally will be a celebration of who we are as a nation and a chance to stop for a moment, reflect, reorganize, and re-energize. It's a chance to think about character; both our character as a nation and our character as individuals."

Other groups expressing their freedom of speech today include "Celebrate the Dream," artists and activists who plan to unveil a structure on the Mall -- nearly four stories high and 70 feet wide -- depicting words and images of King.

Meanwhile, some won't be thinking of King at all. Jay Privette, 62, of Charlotte, is heading to the Beck rally -- he estimates it's his fifth recent trip to a Washington protest rally -- on a bus sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. While Privette said he "has the greatest respect" for the civil rights leader, he thinks comparisons between the men and their causes are "ridiculous."

"They're different," he said. "This movement here is about the takeover of the United States economy."

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When will any amercan african denounce slavery in africa, and when will any american african publicy give the white man credit for fighting and dying to end slavery in this country,,,and when will they put american first in there idenity, in fact by choosing the word african, they are the ones who are creating seperatisim...and when will we ever see an american african organization actually in africa, trying to help those poor sick and hungry babies?

September 02 2010 at 10:03 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply


August 30 2010 at 10:44 PM Report abuse -15 rate up rate down Reply

Martin Luther King, Jr., wanted peace and equality for all people, not just African-American(not a word King stated), but ALL PEOPLE! It's time for people to grow up, not want to fit in,be the center of attention, not instigate hatred, and think for themselves, what is wrong in America and what can we do to make it right, safe and peaceful for all? Begins at home; religion, the foundation, family, extended family, working on relationships, not enabling the bad things, encouraging the good! Stand up for right, and not align with those that spew hatred and does nothing but fuel discrimination that does bring harm to others! Set examples that are good, for the right, and practice, "ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS!"

August 30 2010 at 3:33 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply

How could Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, two people known for pulling so many people together be 'known for their divisive political views'?

August 30 2010 at 1:58 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kevin's comment

Because creating an "in group"/"out group" mentality - and "us versus them" rhetoric - is deeply divisive. They don't bring together diverse thoughts or opinions... they witch-hunt any dissent.

August 30 2010 at 4:31 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

Cheryl Clark4:01 PM Aug 28, 2010 Leopards do not change their spots and tigers do not change their stripes. Beck and Palin are known and want to be known as the most divisive people in this nation ************* Without a doubt, the number one most devisive person in our nation, is the current commander in chief...

August 30 2010 at 12:40 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply

The correct parallel for the Beck rally is NOT the MLK rally but rather the Million Man March. Like the Million Man March, the Beck rally was disingenuously billed as a religious gathering when, in reality, it was held to promote bigotry, hatred, and intolerance of differing opinions.

August 29 2010 at 9:34 PM Report abuse -19 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jimjimmy77's comment

Um... the Million Man March was held with the intention to promote accountability among Black men. It was held to inspire unity of purpose and support for one another as men of character who understood that the destiny of the family was in their hands. The theme was a call to them to take responsibility and exhibit self-respect.... To be fathers to their children and husbands to their wives. It was an outward expression of the little known fact that not all Black men are drug dealing thugs. Your assessment couldn't be further from the truth but it certainly illuminates your bigotry, hatred and intolerance of differing opinions.

August 30 2010 at 2:22 AM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply

Think of the opportunity that Sharpton and his ilk squandered by not joining Beck at the Lincoln Memorial. A true time of coming together. Instead, we get politics and an anti rally. The motto of the Beck rally was "Restoring Honor". Guess that is something that Sharpton is against.

August 29 2010 at 6:39 PM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to garylee123's comment

Sharpton needs to retire. We need to all come together, and Sharpton continues to divide our nation. We don't need dividers!!!

August 29 2010 at 8:35 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply

you know what's funny? how many opportunities have whites had to show their support and didn't. How many times have whites had the chance to turn it around and didn't? no they sit there and scream reverse racism. The sun is setting on the power of the the rich white man and instead of taking it with dignity and grace you all go screaming and whining. Your exclusive privilege in tis country has come to a screeching ass halt and you cant stand it,i think its really pathetic the route you and all whites have taken gary.

August 31 2010 at 8:27 PM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply
Welcome Joan

There was only two things wrong with the Restoring Honor Rally today in Washington, D.C. I wasn't able to make it and it was too short. Other than that, IT WAS AWESOME!

August 28 2010 at 9:07 PM Report abuse +27 rate up rate down Reply

The BIG difference between the 2 rallies was Glenn was promoting unity and Al Sharpton was promoting segragation. Even Martin Luther King's niece spoke at Glenns.

August 28 2010 at 8:35 PM Report abuse +34 rate up rate down Reply

In life, there are those who know how to make a fast buck of a bad situation: Neo-Cons made dollars off the 9/11 massacre of some 3,000 of our people; they even took the nation to war riding the wings of lies. Beck, while promoting GOLD, is about to make dollars hands over fist of the fact that millions of Americans are now un-employed,are losing their homes ,etc.... Yes people, it's capitalism at its best !.......Palin & Beck !.

August 28 2010 at 8:24 PM Report abuse -21 rate up rate down Reply

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