Glenn Beck Appeals to 'Restore' the U.S., Al Sharpton Commemorates Martin Luther King

Rally at site of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech draws hundreds of thousands.

August 28, 2010, 1:43 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2010— -- Just steps away from where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech 47 years ago, conservative commentator Glenn Beck today fervently declared that "America today begins to turn back to God" -- in a rally that drew loud protests from some civil rights groups.

Thousands of people from around the country converged on a hot summer day at the National Mall to watch Beck and Sarah Palin talk about what they called "restoring honor."

"Something that is beyond man is happening," Beck told his supporters as the rally opened. "America today begins to turn back to God. For too long, this country has wandered in darkness."

It is time to "concentrate on the good things in America, the things we have accomplished and the things we can do tomorrow," he said.

"Faith is in short supply," he said. "To restore America, we must restore ourselves."

Palin, a champion of the Tea Party movement, also urged the crowd to "restore America and restore her honor."

"We are worried about what we face. Sometimes, our challenges seem insurmountable," Palin told the crowd, which spanned from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to past the Washington Monument. "Look around you. You're not alone."

Before taking the stage, the former GOP vice presidential candidate told ABC News that she and the others at the gathering recognized King's contribution to America.

"I hope that Dr. King would be so proud of us as his niece Dr. Alveda King is very proud as a participant in this rally," Palin said. "This is sacred ground where we feel his spirit and can appreciate all of his efforts, he who so believed in equality, and may we live up to his challenge."

The National Park Service did not provide crowd estimates for the rally, although DC Fire and EMS tweeted today that there was a "large crowd."

An EMS spokesman told The Associated Press that 50 people were treated for various minor injuries, and about a dozen people were transported to the hospital, three or four of them in serious cardiac conditions.

Alveda King, the niece of the civil rights leader and a conservative, anti-abortion activist, spoke about her uncle after Palin and Beck.

"I too have a dream," King said. "I have a dream that America will pray and God will forgive us our sins."

In another part of the city, activist Al Sharpton commemorated King's legacy and again accused Beck of distorting his dream.

"They have the mall, but we have the message. They may have the platform, but we have the dream," Sharpton told attendees. "The dream wasn't about states' rights."

Sharpton's event began at Dunbar high school, once a segregated institution, and participants marched from there to the National Mall, the site of the early Beck rally.

The march featured heavy hitters such as D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Even though none of the speakers at the "Restoring Honor" rally talked overtly about politics, it was the foremost issue on the minds of many of the people who were present.

Glenn Beck Rally Draws Supporters, Protestors

Politics was on top of many attendees' mind who came to support Beck.

"What Martin Luther King said is, he said this, he's going to do the will of God, Glenn Beck is doing the same thing. All you have to do is say the truth about life," said Minister Leroy Swailes from Washington, D.C.

Swailes, an African American, said it was the "divine revelation of God" that Beck's rally fell on the same day as King's speech without the conservative commentator knowing it.

Brock Lawley, a musician from Columbus, Ohio, came with five of his friends to attend the gathering. His reason -- to take the United States back to its conservative roots.

"Every direction you look, we've got a fiscal mess, a moral mess, the family unit's just completely crumbling," he said. "I think we need to take some real actions towards healing this and I don't think a place like this is a bad place to start."

Carol Hunt, from Las Vegas, said she feels socialists are destroying the country and she had a warning message for liberals who are running in the November mid-term elections.

"I believe in the concept of socialists destroying America. I think they've been wanting to for a long time," she said. "I think we as Americans are going to speak up and we're going to bring America back. ... We (conservatives) are going to take the country back and we're well on our way to take this country back. ... They're not going to get us."

None of the speakers overtly discussed politics, but Beck himself channeled President Obama, as the AP pointed out, borrowing a phrase from Obama's 2008 stump speech.

"One man can change the world," Beck said. "That man or woman is you. You make the difference."

While the security situation was mostly under control, Beck's supporters went head-on with protestors who came to oppose Beck's message -- fighting about everything from whether the country was moving toward socialism to whether Beck should have held the rally on the anniversary of King's speech.

"I think this is just pulling the country apart. This is not restoring anything but chaos," said Latisha Lee, a Washington, D.C. resident. "It's a joke, because he's not addressing everybody, just certain people who agree with him."

Abby Lachman said she was at the rally to protest peacefully, and while she said Beck had every right to hold the rally on the "I Have a Dream" anniversary, she was there to honor the civil rights leaders' legacy.

"We're just pointing out what Martin Luther King's message was, because Glenn Beck chose to speak at the same spot," she said.

ABC News' Tahman Bradley contributed to this report.

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