WASHINGTON — Glenn Beck says it's just a coincidence his Restoring Honor rally on Saturday 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's 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," the Rev. Al Sharpton said. "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 tea party activists and a polarizing Fox News Channel personality, is headlining the event, and Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a potential 2012 president candidate, will be a prominent speaker. But Beck says it's not about politics.
The event's website says the rally is to pay 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 family members of military members. The website urges citizens to attend and "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.
Organizers of Saturday's 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 events have included pictures of Obama embellished with a Hitler-style mustache, racial epithets and threats to Democratic officials. Such posters have given tea party critics grounds to claim the loose organization of activists is motivated by racism against the nation's first black president.