Glenn Beck's Rally Panned by Civil Rights Leaders, Kicks Off Tea Party Rallies

Conservative Commentator's Rally to be Held on Anniversary of MLK 'I Have a Dream' Speech


Aug. 20, 2010—

Forty-seven years after Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a different type of rally will be convening there. And it is already causing national uproar.

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck's plans to host a "Restoring Honor" rally on Aug. 28 to "celebrate America" has brought objections from some civil rights leaders, who say picking the anniversary of King's speech is a deliberate way to distort King's message.

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network -- which is also planning a large march that day that ends in the same spot -- has called Beck's event an "outright attempt to flip the imagery of Dr. King." Sharpton said Beck is "circumventing him and distorting him."

Beck, for his part, claims ignorance, saying that he initially planned the rally for Sept. 12, but then realized it was Sunday and didn't want anyone to work on the sabbath. The controversial talk show host attributed the coincidence to "divine providence."

Beck has said the rally will be "non-political." But with an appearance by Sarah Palin as the event's headliner, politics are likely to play some part.

Palin has been busily endorsing conservative mid-term election candidates. And with the elections only months away, the topic is likely to be raised in the rally.

Tea Party activists are expected to make up a large part of the rally, although organizers have been careful to say that it's not a Tea Party event.

Rev. C.L. Bryant, a Tea Party activist and former NAACP president in Garland, Texas, admitted the date Beck wasn't "the best conceived idea," but said the attacks on the date of the rally are "shameful."

"I don't think Dr. King would've had any problem with it," said Bryant, who plans to attend the rally. "In fact, the perpetuation of the race card that's played by groups like NAACP and even some conservative groups is misdirected."

"I think there are forces right now in our country, in certain groups, who want to make everything divisive, and they're using an icon like King to create a division, which I think is shameful," he added.

Beck's Rally Kicks Off Series of Tea Party Events

The Beck and Sharpton camps have not said how many people are likely to turn up and organizers are promising a peaceful assembly. But with numbers on both sides expected to be fairly large, there is already tension. The New Black Panther Party's Malik Zulu Shabazz has warned that Beck's group will be met with "direct opposition" from his group.

The NAACP, which will be participating in Sharpton's march, released a cautious statement.

"We commend Beck for heeding the NAACP's call for civility by banning extreme signs and guns at his event," NAACP president Ben Jealous said in a statement. "Were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive today, he would be standing -- as he did 47 years ago -- with the National Action Network, NAACP and other civil and human rights organizations at the rally marking his true legacy on August 28th."

The NAACP is planning its own rally on Oct. 2, which is expected to draw "tens of thousands of people from all across the country," Jealous said.

From across the country, buses are filling up quickly for Beck's rally. In York, Pennsylvania, bus charter company owner John W. Bailey says he's seen "overwhelming" demand both for his buses and his competitors'. Ironically, the last time his company saw such huge interest was for President Obama's inauguration.

Beck's rally kicks off a series of conservative rallies, most of them organized by grassroots Tea Party groups.

Freedomworks, which organized a rally last year in Washington, is hoping to its success this year on Sept. 12, with its "Taxpayer March."

The message of this year's march reads more like a warning -- "Remember in November!"

"Our idea is to focus on government intervention and free markets, and of course we want more fiscal responsibility from our elected officials," said Bryant, a member of Freedomworks. "That will always be the rallying cry of the grassroots movement."

Bryant said about 1.5 million people showed up last year and organizers are hoping to at least duplicate that figure, if not grow it.

Another Tea Party group called Unite in Action has planned a march on D.C. on Sept. 11.