- Associated Press - Friday, August 27, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - Broadcaster Glenn Beck and tea party activists have a right to rally in the nation’s capital but not to distort Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Friday.

Sharpton described the demonstration planned for Saturday by Beck and his supporters as an anti-government rally advocating states’ rights. And Sharpton said that goes against the message in King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, in which the civil rights leader appealed to the federal government to ensure equality.

Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally will be held at the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his speech exactly 47 years earlier. Beck and other organizers say the aim is to pay tribute to America’s military personnel and others “who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.” The broadcaster toured the site Friday as supporters cheered.

On Saturday, Sharpton and others plan their own rally at a high school and a march to the site of a planned King memorial not far from the Lincoln Memorial to mark the anniversary of his speech.


During a news conference Friday, Sharpton questioned whether Beck and others understand King’s words.

“They have the right to rally. But what they don’t have the right to do is distort what Dr. King’s dream was about,” he said.

He said King’s legacy is not owned by black people alone, and others can have different views of him. But he said they can’t have different views of King’s speech.

“His speech says clearly that he wanted to see a nation where the federal government protects us from those and states that would not uphold our civil rights,” Sharpton said.

“You can’t have a march telling government to leave us alone and say you’re reclaiming a march where they came to appeal to government to protect us,” he said. “They’re having an anti-government march on a day that King came to appeal to government. You can’t have it both ways.”

The Rev. Walter Fauntroy, who formerly represented the District of Columbia in the U.S. House, said Beck’s rally organizers “seized the hallowed ground of the 47th anniversary … to promote their universal vision of exclusion.”

“Their purpose is to turn the clock back in a time in America” when blacks and other minorities lacked rights, he said.

“It would be wrong for us to allow those who espouse the universal value of exclusion to hijack the site and the message of that marvelous day and to use it against the very vision that Martin Luther King Jr. articulated so magnificently,” he said.

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