Glenn Beck — the guy who once said President Barack Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people” — is having another rally. And wouldn’t you know, the talk show host’s “Restoring Honor” rally will just happen to take place on the anniversary of and in the same place as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
But the talk show host currently insists the timing and symbolic location of Saturday’s rally is just a coincidence. Yet Beck said in May that the rally was “a moment quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement.”
As one might suspect, civil rights leaders are upset. One former congressman who took part in the freedom march 47 years ago equated the KKK with the Tea Party movement. Civil rights groups are also planning rallies and demonstrations. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, working with the National Urban League, the NAACP, Martin Luther King III and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, among others, will lead a march from the historical Duncan High School to the site of the planned MLK Memorial.
Beck is confused by all the hullabaloo. “Press already comparing my speech to MLK. What? I’m not MLK,” Beck wrote on Twitter this week. “most of speech will be off bullet points. The rest ad-lib. MLK genius.Me? Not.”
On Thursday, Beck told his television audience again that the event is not about politics, and a website for the event says the rally will pay tribute to military personnel.
The lineup, however, features Sarah Palin as a main speaker, and congress members including Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) are helping with fundraising. FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots, two groups with a large role in the Tea Party movement, are offering up volunteers and logistical advice.
“Looking forwrd to seeing Alveda King again tomorrw at Glenn Beck rally in DC!” Palin tweeted on Friday. “MLK’s niece spoke at an Alaska event 2 yrs ago - so inspiring!” King, a conservative activist, recently called same sex marriage “genocide” at a rally sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage.
Some of the money donated to the event is going to the highly-rated charity Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which gives scholarships to the children of Special Ops soldiers killed in combat and financial assistance to wounded troops. But it’s not clear how much of the money raised will ultimately end up going to the charity.
Edie Rosenthal, a retired Navy lieutenant commander and spokeswoman for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, told Time that it required speakers at the event to sign an agreement promising not to talk politics. “Because we’re involved, it cannot be political,” she told Time.
Organizers say they are prepared if anything gets out of hand on Saturday. FreedomWorks spokesperson Adam Brandon told TPM there will be more security at this year’s rally than at the 9/12 rally last year because of increased worry about threats.
“We’re getting much more serious about security, we have to be,” Brandon said, adding that he expects very large crowds.
“I was on a plane from North Carolina today and probably 25 percent of the people on it were coming in for this,” Brandon said.
King’s son said Beck’s event — which the Daily Kos dubbed the “I Have a Fever Dream” speech — is clearly timed to present the event as honoring his father, and wrote that he would like to be clear about what those ideals are
“My father championed free speech,” Martin Luther King III wrote in The Washington Post “He would be the first to say that those participating in Beck’s rally have the right to express their views. But his dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination, whether directed at race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation or political beliefs.”
Democrats have been trotting out Beck’s antics as a fundraiser.
“You can bet Beck and Palin’ll claim tomorrow’s freak show means that their wingnut movement has all the momentum going into election season. We can’t let these wackjobs win,” James Carville wrote in an e-mail sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday morning.
“We can’t allow Beck, Palin and the Tea Party to twist the legacy of this historic anniversary for their Corporate-financed, racist and pro-war agenda,” read an ANSWER Coalition e-mail. The group is hosting a separate march on Saturday to mark King’s legacy.
Even conservatives are unsure what to think. Erick Erickson, the founder of the influential conservative blog Red State, told Politico that the “conservative movement is still split on Glenn and whether he’s doing it for himself or doing it for the movement.”
The rally has a lot of rules, including one banning signs — which is aimed at clamping down on offensive messages that gather media attention. “We really don’t want anything to deter from the peaceful message we’re trying to bring to Washington, okay?” says the young woman in the video.
The rally takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Talking Points Memo will have full coverage.
Additional reporting by Evan McMorris-Santoro.