There weren’t many signs. There were, however, shirts, flags and flag-shirts.
Glenn Beck’s controversial “Restoring Honor” rally took over the National Mall on Saturday, in the same place as and on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Crowd estimates vary, but it was large, and Rep. Michele Bachmann quickly vowed that they were “not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million.”
But most could agree on this: the crowd was very large, very patriotic and very white.
And the offensive signs that plagued previous “Tea Party” rallies hardly made an appearance at Beck’s event — in no small part because organizers strongly discouraged them. Most attendees chose instead to express themselves with items they could fit on their body.
A sampling: “‘Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms’ should be a convenience store, not a government agency.” Reagan shirts. “Take America Back.” Uncle Sam hats. And lots and lots of clothing featuring the American flag.
Beck said towards the end of the rally that they had raised about $5.5 million for Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which gives scholarships to the children of Special Ops soldiers killed in combat and financial assistance to wounded troops.
Speeches by Beck were not overtly partisan, but they were very religious and very pro-military. “America today begins to turn back to God. For too long, this country has wandered in darkness,” Beck said.
There was a lot of controversy over the the location and timing of the rally. But Beck’s videos didn’t shy away from the MLK comparison, featuring the civil rights activist prominently in videos played on jumbo screens up and down the mall.
Sarah Palin’s speech focused on her role as a military mother. But she also touched on the controversy over the timing and location of the rally in an interview.
“I hope that Dr. King would be so proud of us, as his niece Dr. Alveda King is very proud as a participant in this rally,” Palin told ABC News backstage at the rally. Alveda King is a conservative activist best know for her work with the anti-abortion movement and her opposition to same sex marriage. Palin added, “This is sacred ground where we feel his spirit and can appreciate all of his efforts. He who so believed in equality and may we live up to his challenge.”
Martin Luther King III, along with other civil rights leaders, held a march in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech” that passed by but did not officially engage with the conservative activists around the Lincoln Memorial.