Beck's plan for rally inspires countermarches
Social activists and civil-rights leaders plan marches and demonstrations Aug. 28 to coincide with a rally organized by Fox News personality Glenn Beck.
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Social activists and civil-rights leaders, among them the Rev. Al Sharpton, are planning marches and demonstrations — including the unveiling of a nearly four-story-tall original sculpture on the Mall — on Aug. 28 to coincide with a rally organized by Fox News personality Glenn Beck.
Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally, with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin among the scheduled speakers, will take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 47 years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech there.
The conservative talk-show host announced in November that he wanted to reveal a "100 year plan for America" at the Lincoln Memorial. More recently, he said that the purpose of his Aug. 28 event is to restore the country's "values" and to pay tribute to military families.
"There will be absolutely no politics involved," he said. "This rally will honor the troops, unite the American people under the principles of integrity and truth, and make a pledge to restore honor within ourselves and our country."
Civil-rights leaders have denounced Beck's plans, questioning his motives for choosing the date and place, which they said are historically symbolic of the country's civil-rights movement.
Responding to the criticism on his show June 28, Beck said he believes it was "divine providence" that the rally was scheduled on the anniversary of the King speech. He said he had initially planned the event for Sept. 12 and then realized it was a Sunday. "I'm not going to ask anyone to work on the Sabbath," he said. He rescheduled the rally for Aug. 28 because it was the best day for the schedules of the people involved, he said.
"It was not my intention to select 8-28 because of the Martin Luther King tie. It is the day he made that speech. I had no idea until I announced it and I walked offstage and my researchers said, New York Times has already just published that this is (the same day as the King speech) — and I said, 'Oh, jeez.' "
He went on to say: "I believe in divine providence. I believe this is a reason (the date was chosen), because whites don't own the Founding Fathers. Whites don't own Abraham Lincoln. Blacks don't own Martin Luther King. Humans, humans embrace their ideas or reject their ideas. Too many are rejecting the Founders' ideas. Too many have forgotten Abraham Lincoln's ideas and far too many have either gotten just lazy or they have purposely distorted Martin Luther King's ideas of judge a man by the content of his character. Lately, in the last 20 years, we've been told that character doesn't matter. Well, if character doesn't matter, then what was Martin Luther King asking people to judge people by?"
Asked for further explanation of the remark, Beck's spokesman said, "No comment."
Still, several civil-rights leaders and activists called Beck's comments disingenuous. They cited his record of making what they perceive to be racially insensitive comments.
Beck's plans are "an effort to embarrass and poke a finger in the eye of the civil-rights community because Glenn Beck and his public utterances don't necessarily demonstrate a consistency with the vision of King," said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.
Sharpton, who has planned a march that day to commemorate King's legacy, says Beck's rally contradicts King's legacy. "For Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to have a march, they have the right to do so. Many of us suspect they are using the symbolism of that day in a way that does not reflect what the day is about," Sharpton said. "At no point will we interchange. We will not desecrate the march and what King stood for."
Other organizations are staging "counter-events" on the Mall on Aug. 28, including a grass-roots network of artists, community organizers and social activists calling themselves "Celebrate the Dream," which last Thursday secured a permit from the National Park Service to unveil an original sculpture on the Mall that day.
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