Conservatives flood Washington rally

August 29th, 2010 - 6:14 am ICT by IANS  

Sarah Palin Washington, Aug 29 (DPA) Conservatives from the US heartlands packed the nation’s capital Saturday, answering a call from right-wing TV commentator Glenn Beck and Republican politician Sarah Palin to “restore honour” to the country.
Sporting American flags and carrying folding chairs, the crowd of mostly white and older activists came to the Lincoln Memorial to honour the US military but also to protest high taxes, health insurance reform and what they say are the “socialist” policies of US President Barack Obama.

Religion also played a role in the massive rally, which stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.

“Something beyond imagination is happening,” the Fox News TV pundit told the crowd. “America today begins to turn back to God.”

The rally coincided with the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream… ” speech, a fact that has drawn criticism from civil rights activists that Beck was trying to comandeer King’s liberal anti-racist vision for the so-called Tea Party movement.

In 1963, King also looked out on the masses from the steps of the Lincoln memorial, which is dedicated to the US president who ended slavery during the 19the century civil war.

Beck, known as a history buff, first said the choice of dates was coincidental, but then later declared it as “divine providence” that meant he was chosen to pick up King’s “dream” and “to restore it and finish it”.

Coming just two months ahead of key congressional elections, the strong conservative turnout on the sparkling late summer day set the stage for a bitter fight in the November mid-term congressional elections. Tea Party activists aim to turn out of office majority Democrats as well as Republicans who do not represent their ideals.

“I am genuinely frightened for my country. The country I grew up in is disappearing so quickly since Obama got elected,” said Dolly Force, 64, of Asheville, North Carolina, in an interview.

Echoing Beck’s on-air rhetoric, she called Obama a “socialist” and a “Marxist” and said she believed Obama alone was responsible for the high US deficit.

“Anybody who has not been a fiscal conservative … must be gotten out of office,” she declared.

Palin, a vice-presidential candidate in 2008 who may run for president in 2012, told the crowd, “We must restore America and restore her honour,” reflecting the theme of the rally: Restoring Honour.

Critics of Beck point out that he has called Obama a “racist” and compared Obama’s administration to “The Planet of the Apes”.

A crowd of largely African-Americans organised a separate march in Washington headed to the site of the soon-to-be built Martin Luther King Jr memorial, just a stone’s throw from the Lincoln Memorial.

“If we hadn’t elected a black president, do you think they would be doing this today?” asked Joyce White, a counter-protestor quoted by the Washington Post, referring to Beck’s rally.

Ben Jealous, head of the civil rights organization NAACP, recalled being at Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 which packed the Washington mall with more than one million people.

“It was a day when the whole country felt united. It was a day when we thought the country was full of big hearts and big minds,” he said.

Then, referring to Beck and the Tea Party movement, he added: “For a year and a half we have been subjected to small hearts and small minds on our small screens.”

Most of the activists at the conservative rally followed Beck’s call to leave political signs at home, and there were few in evidence. Beck also argued that his rally was not political, but merely a way of honouring US troops.

But for Janet Hudson, 55, who travelled with her 19-year-old son from Michigan specifically to support the Beck rally, there was a political motivation.

She worries about taxes and government interference in the affairs of individuals - major issues for the Tea party, along with the newly-passed health insurance reform measure.

“Europe is so romantic, but I don’t want us to be like them,” she told DPA, referring to Europe’s strong social support network for citizens. “Taxes are getting so high. I own my own (photography) business. Every time I turn around, there’s a new law.”

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