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30 Aug, 2010 21:38

Glenn Beck brings hordes to Washington rally

No one seems to know just how many people showed up at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on Aug. 28 for what was billed as the “Restoring Honor” rally hosted by conservative radio and TV host, Glenn Beck.

 It could have been somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 or maybe in the tens of thousands, but by all accounts, the number was huge, a crowd large enough to stretch all the way down the National Mall to the Washington Monument.

Headlining the event was one-time Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin and Alveda King, niece of the slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. An ocean of mostly Caucasian, mostly self-identifying Christian rally goers attended the free event whose purpose – according to organizers – was to honor service personnel and raise scholarship money for children of US servicemen and women killed in action.

The organizers also said it wasn’t supposed to be political, but when you have Glenn Beck, everything turns out to be political. The conservative openly questioned President Barack Obama’s Christianity and stated “America has wandered into darkness.”

In another neighborhood of Washington, DC, another rally took place – this one called the “Reclaim the Dream March.” This one was headlined by the no-less polarizing figure of Rev. Al Sharpton and several leaders of the African-American community, who started their march at Dunbar High School and ended it at the Mall. They said Glenn Beck – an arguably a racially divisive figure – “bamboozled” the legacy of Dr. King by holding his rally on the same day 47 years after King gave his “I Have the Dream” speech in the same spot, just two flights of stairs down.

Beck invoked the legacy of Dr. King. His supporters – mostly Tea Partiers – said it wasn’t a black-vs-white event. In the words of Bob Smyth of Virginia: “I think they [Glenn Beck’s critics] … uh… make their living off of race-baiting, race-hating, keeping the races going at each other,”  said Bob Smyth of Virginia, who attended the rally.

The organizers of “Restoring Honor” went through the proper channels to organizing the event. They obtained a permit and listed 300,000 as the number of people expected to attend.  Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” was perfectly legal and permissible, an example of Americans exercising their free right to assemble. But the two nagging questions on the day exactly 47 years after the nation-defining “I Have a Dream” speech took place were:

Just because you have the right should you necessarily use that right?

And…What would Dr. Martin Luther King think?