WASHINGTON (AP) - Broadcaster Glenn Beck is calling on thousands to rally Saturday in the nation’s capital on the anniversary and at the same site of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Civil rights leaders are protesting the event.
Beck, a Fox News personality and a conservative favorite, insists it’s just a coincidence that his “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is overlapping with the 47th anniversary of King’s speech. Potential 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin is expected to attend along with some 100,000 people. District of Columbia officials had granted a permit for some 300,000.
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.
The Rev. Al Sharpton called the demonstration an anti-government rally advocating states’ rights. And Sharpton said that goes against the message in King’s speech, in which the civil rights leader appealed to the federal government to ensure equality.
“The structural breakdown of a strong national government, which is what they’re calling for, is something that does not serve the interests of the nation and it’s something that Dr. King and others fought against,” Sharpton said Saturday on C-SPAN.
“It is ironic to me that they come on the day of a speech where Dr. King appealed for a strong government to protect civil rights and they’re going to the site of Abraham Lincoln who saved the union against the state rebellion,” he said.
Beck, a Fox News personality and favorite of conservatives, has given voice to those angry and frustrated with President Barack Obama and other Democrats this election year, especially members of the tea party movement.
A conservative blogger’s assertion that parts of the nation’s capital should be avoided as unsafe, created an uproar on the blogosphere, accusations of racism and a sharp response by angry city leaders.
With emotions already high, the work of a largely unknown tea party blogger, Bruce Majors, brought them to a fever pitch on Friday.
The blog, which first appeared last Monday and has been widely viewed and distributed since then, warned conservative protesters visiting the nation’s capital to avoid certain subway lines, suggesting they are unsafe, that certain neighborhoods should be avoided, that the city is populated by the world’s refugees _ that taxi drivers are often Arab or African _ and that generally visitors should be wary.
And it inspired a satirical map of Washington with all of the city marked unsafe, except for the tiny sliver of the National Mall, home to the Lincoln Memorial. Some people mistakenly assumed the map was put out by Beck rally supporters.
Associated Press writers Brett Zongker and Nafeesa Syeed contributed to this report.