Tens of thousands of people heeded broadcaster Glenn Beck's summons for his "Restoring Honor" rally Saturday from the same marble steps at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr.'s gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech 47 years ago to the day.
Civil rights leaders protested the event Ã¢â‚¬â€ organizers have a permit for a crowd up to 300,000, though the Fox News commentator and conservative favorite said he expects 100,000 Ã¢â‚¬â€ and scheduled a 3-mile plus march from a high school to the site of a planned King memorial near the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial.
Beck insisted it was a coincidence that his gathering, where potential 2012 presidential candidate Sarah Palin was to speak, overlapped with the King speech anniversary of King's speech. Organizers said their aim was to honor military personnel and others "who embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth and honor."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, leading the civil rights march, said Beck's demonstration was an anti-government rally that advocated states' rights Ã¢â‚¬â€ counter to the message in King's speech, in which the civil right leader appealed to the federal government to ensure equality.
"The structural breakdown of a strong national government, which is what they're calling for, is something that does not serve the interests of the nation and it's something that Dr. King and others fought against," Sharpton told C-SPAN on Saturday.
People began filling up the space between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, many waving American flags. The Washington-area subway system reported delays dues to crowding at some stations.
Beck has given voice to those angry and frustrated with President Barack Obama and other Democrats this election year, especially members of the tea party movement.
A conservative blogger's assertion that parts of the capital should be avoided as unsafe, created an uproar on the blogosphere, drawing accusations of racism and a sharp response by angry city leaders.
Associated Press writers Brett Zongker and Nafeesa Syeed contributed to this report.
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