A civil rights activist and former congressman equated the Tea Party with the Ku Klux Klan today as he blasted a conservative rally planned in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
The Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the non-voting delegate who represented the District of Columbia from 1971 to 1991, called on African-Americans to organize a "new coalition of conscience" to rebut the rally scheduled for Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial featuring Fox News pundit Glenn Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"We are going to take on the barbarism of war, the decadence of racism, and the scourge of poverty, that the Ku Klux -- I meant to say the Tea Party," Fauntroy told a news conference today at the National Press Club. "You all forgive me, but I -- you have to use them interchangeably."
Fauntroy attempted to explain the comparison to white supremacists by saying that organizers behind the "Restoring Honor" rally are the same people who cut audio cables from a sound system the night before the historic March on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
"The same people who cut the cables on the night before the march, that we paid $66,000 for a sound system, they cut it," Fauntroy said. "Now from Fox News and elsewhere, they are seeking to turn the world back."
Fauntroy, who is credited as one of the chief organizers of the March on Washington, remembers Aug. 28, 1963, as the "most important date of the 20th century."
The "Restoring Honor" rally, organized by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, coincides with the anniversary of the historic March on Washington and the "I Have a Dream" speech. Organizers have said the conflicting date was a coincidence and not a deliberate display of disrespect.
Fauntroy said right-wing conservatives have "declared war on the civil rights movement of the 1960s" that brought together a Coalition of Conscience for a march on jobs and freedom in 1963. He called for a new Coalition of Conscience rally on the Mall in August 2012.
"I don't want you to think I'm angry," Fauntroy said. "[But] when this right-wing conservative exclusionary group comes to highjack our movement, we have got to respond. And I'm looking forward to that Coalition of Conscience, in defense of jobs and freedom for women."
Fauntroy is the pastor emeritus of New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington. He's also a founding member and early chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He also ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972 and 1976, although he only competed in the D.C. primary, winning in 1972 and losing to Jimmy Carter in 1976.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice -- composed of African-America leaders in religion, civil rights, law, medicine and women's health -- addressed at today's news conference what it called "baseless and inflammatory assertions" about reproductive health services in black communities.