Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" Rally Draws Thousands

"America today begins to turn back to God," Beck told his supporters.

August 28, 2010, 7:51 AM

Aug 28, 2010 -- As Tea Party activists and other conservatives began converging on Washington, D.C. this morning for Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally, the war of words between liberals and conservatives continued to broil.

Today at the National Mall, the rally has attracted more than 100,000 people gathered to see speeches by both Beck and Sarah Palin. Security was beefed up amid concerns of a clash because Beck's rally coincides with the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech, to be commemorated by various marches and rallies on the capitol.

"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."

Beck has shunned criticism from some civil rights leaders that holding his rally on this historic day tarnishes King's legacy.

In her speech, Palin referred to King and the anniversary of his historic speech, stating that the best way to honor his legacy is to honor men and women serving in the military, who protect our freedoms. She went on to introduce soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet. You can't take that away from me," Palin said, referring to her son Track.

Beck has stated that the rally will be non-political and focusing on honoring America's troops, and has asked attendees to not carry political signs but American flags. A clear religious air hung over the event, with Beck peppering his speech with references to God while a pastor made a prayer offering.

But for many attendees, the rally was all about politics.

Nancy and Tom Mistele came from Wisconsin to attend Beck's rally and events surrounding it. The two say they came because they haven't earned a paycheck since 2006 and are afraid that Americans are losing their freedom and their country.

"I believe slowly, our rights are being taken away little by little," Tom Mistele said. "A lot of it's already been lost, but it's not lost permanently. We can get it back."

Cody Smith, an 18-year-old high school student from Indiana, believes passionately that the U.S. government should be stopped from moving toward socialism.

"We're here because we think our nation needs to get back to the principles of liberty that our founders gave us," he said. The rally is "going to be just historic. It's going to be us standing up and showing people that we're not the racist bigots that the media portrays us to be but that we love freedom, we love people and we want to show people that freedom is really the best way to go."

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton, who is holding a "Reclaim the Dream" march today, berated Beck for hosting the rally on the anniversary of the historic civil rights march.

"Dr. King is not owned by blacks. But we can't have different opinions of Dr. King's speech," civil rights activist Al Sharpton said at a press conference today. "They're having an anti-government march on a day King came to appeal to the government. You can't have it both ways."

Sharpton challenged Beck to come to Dunbar high school, the starting point of his rally.

"Maybe Glenn, if you read the speech you'd be over at Dunbar talking about equality rather than distorting it at the Lincoln memorial," Sharpton said. "You've got the right place wrong speech."

Glenn Beck's 'Restoring Honor' Rally Draws Criticism

For a rally that's not meant to be about politics, it is all about politics.

Democrats and Republicans alike today took turns taking stabs at each other and projecting confidence that their own side will prevail in November's mid-term elections.

Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, criticized Beck's rally as "blatantly political," and predicts voters in swing districts will be turned off by "outrageous rhetoric on the right," which he characterized as ranting conspiracy theories.

"Congressional Republicans inside the beltway are already popping the champagne bottles, saying that they're going to seize control of United States Congress. It is a premature celebration," Van Hollen said.

"After the eight years of the Bush administration policies, our economy was driven into the ditch. And for the past 20 months, our Republican colleagues have been carping and criticizing every effort we've made to get the economy out of the ditch and back in gear," he added.

Bashing the Obama administration's economic agenda was the theme of the Americans for Prosperity's Foundation annual conference today. The event boasted an attendance of 2,500 -- the highest ever for the event since it began four years ago.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pushed attendees to fight for "federalism and limited government."

"Democracy is not a spectator sport. I call you to action," he said. "Fight for those principles back home, because there's an awful lot at stake in this country."

AFP president Tim Phillips dismissed Democrats' criticism as "petty attacks."

"We're winning and you know you're winning when the other side is reduced to just petty attacks," he said. In November, "I think you're going to see a political tidal wave that changes the direction of this country, and specifically, it's going to be a repudiation of Speaker Pelosi and President Obama's big government big spending policies."

The National Park Service estimates about a 100,000 people will be in attendance today at Beck's rally. The DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) is preparing for a crowd of between 100,000 and 200,000 for all rallies taking place in the nation's capital today.

ABC News' John Parkinson and Tahman Bradley contributed to this report.