Beck says D.C. rally to honor US military
Calls anniversary of ’63 King speech just a coincidence
WASHINGTON — Glenn Beck says it is a coincidence his Restoring Honor rally tomorrow at the Lincoln Memorial will take place on the anniversary and at the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream’’ speech. But he is hardly apologizing for the connection.
“This is going to be a moment that you’ll never be able to paint people as haters, racists, none of it,’’ he says of the event featuring Sarah Palin and other conservative political and cultural figures. “This is a moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement.’’
Some civil rights veterans are skeptical.
“When we heard about Glenn Beck, it was puzzling,’’ said the Rev. Al Sharpton. “Because if you read Dr. King’s speech, it just doesn’t gel with what Mr. Beck or Mrs. Palin are representing.’’
Beck, a popular figure among activists from the Tea Party movement and a polarizing personality on the Fox News Channel , is headlining the event, and Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, will be a prominent speaker. But Beck says it is not about politics.
The event’s website says the rally is a tribute to America’s military personnel and others “who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth, and honor.’’ It also is to promote the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides scholarships and services to families of military members.
The website urges citizens to “help us restore the values that founded this great nation.’’
The rally, on the 47th anniversary of King’s plea for racial equality, is drawing a strong reaction — and several counter-rallies — as the nation looks toward November’s elections.
Beck is known for his strong opinions, including his statement that President Obama is a racist; he later told CBS’s Katie Couric that he was “sorry the way it was phrased.’’
But organizers of the rally are telling attendees not to bring signs, “as they may deter from the peaceful message we are bringing to Washington.’’
Signs at some Tea Party movement events have included pictures of Obama embellished with a Hitler-style mustache, racial epithets, and threats to Democratic officials. Such posters have given critics grounds to claim the loose organization of activists is motivated by racism against the nation’s first black president.
“Dr. King never had to ask anyone to leave their signs and guns at home,’’ said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP. “To say to your followers, don’t bring your signs — it’s like saying don’t open your mouth.’’
“The 8/28 rally is supposedly about ‘reclaiming the civil rights movement,’ but it is being led by someone whose idea of a racist is the president of the United States,’’ said Jess Levin, a spokesman for the liberal Media Matters for America. “This rally is about one thing and one thing only. And that’s promoting Beck’s political agenda.’’
Elsewhere in Washington, civil rights activists planned to mark tomorrow’s anniversary of the landmark 1963 speech with rallies and demonstrations, some ending on the National Mall. One group planned a four-story sculpture in honor of King near the Washington Monument.
Sharpton’s National Action Network planned a “Reclaim the Dream’’ rally, featuring Education Secretary Arne Duncan, National Urban League president Marc Morial, and Martin Luther King III.
In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, King cited Beck’s event, calling it “commendable that this rally will honor the brave men and women of our armed forces who serve our country with phenomenal dedication.’’ But he also said it was clear the organizers were invoking his father’s work.
“My father championed free speech. He would be the first to say that those participating in Beck’s rally have the right to express their views,’’ King wrote Wednesday. “But his dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination, whether directed at race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation, or political beliefs.’’