US Conservatives Rally To "Restore America"

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of people gathered Saturday at the site of Martin Luther King Jr's 1963, "I Have a Dream Speech" to hear right-wing icons call on them to "restore America." In wide-ranging and often religious terms, Fox News host talks show host Glenn Beck told Americans that their country was "at a crossroads" and urged them to return to "faith, hope and charity." "Today we must decide, who are we? What is it we believe? We must advance or perish. I choose advance," he said to a cheering crowd that stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Beck, who hosted the event to "restore America's honor," estimated that between 300,000 and 500,000 people attended the event. An average of two million viewers watch his show, which airs daily on weekdays. Many streets in downtown Washington were closed off and patrolled heavily by police, while rally participants packed Metro stations. The rally, billed as a non-political, faith-based salute to US troops and values, attracted many members of the conservative Tea Party movement, who eschewed their usual practice by honoring organizers' requests to not bring signs. Hardly an African American was in sight. The rally drew criticism because it was staged at the very same location where King made his call for racial equality nearly half a century ago. Critics said Beck and fellow conservative icon Sarah Palin's political stances were sharply at odds with King's civil rights legacy. Black leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, held a competing march and accused Beck of misrepresenting the slain civil rights leader's message of equality among all races. "The folks who criticize our marches are now trying to march themselves," Sharpton said. "They may have the Mall, but we have the message. They may have the platform, but we have the dream. The dream was not states' rights." Beck said the timing was coincidental, and argued he had every right to commemorate King's struggle.