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 he 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.
Sharpton wasn’t the only one upset with circumstance surrounding the event.
Leaders in the nation’s capital said they were offended by a tea party blogger’s warning to those attending to avoid two of Washington’s subway lines because they go through certain neighborhoods. Many parts of the city are safe, he wrote, “but why chance it if you don’t know where you are?”
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D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who is running for mayor, invited visitors into the city’s neighborhoods and said Friday he would urge any tea partiers he meets to ride the subway.
“Frankly, we need to put an end to that venom,” he said at a news conference. “This is a city of 600,000 people —
people who enjoy living here, people who pay their taxes.”
“Let’s not let them get away with portraying the District of Columbia as some kind of frontier city,” Gray said. “We live in peace.”
The original post early Monday morning by blogger Bruce Majors was offered as a visitor’s guide for those coming to the district for the rally. It offered hints on cheap eats, free wireless Internet spots —
and the home addresses of Democratic political leaders, with the note, “Feel free to protest!”
Majors also wrote that the population includes “refugees from every country, as the families of embassy staffs of third world countries tend to stay in D.C. whenever a revolution in their homeland means that anyone in their family would be in danger if they went back.”
He also wrote that taxi drivers and waiters and waitresses frequently are from foreign countries.
Majors, who said he has lived in D.C. since 1980, did not respond to telephone messages requesting comment Friday.
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.