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Rival Rallies Held on Anniversary of MLK Speech

  • Nico Colombant

Competing rallies have been held in Washington on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, offering different visions for America's future. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the bigger protest, a conservative rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the same spot where the civil rights speech was made 47 years ago.

Former Republican party vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was the headline speaker at the conservative event called "Restoring Honor".

She said she was honored to speak at the same historic spot as Martin Luther King Jr.. He was assassinated in 1968, after leading non-violent protests for civil rights.

Photo Gallery of the "Restore Honor" Rally at the Lincoln Memorial

(Photos contributed by M. Lipin, J. Stahl and N. Colombant)

Palin said she was also proud of the large crowd which had gathered, stretching along the Washington Mall's reflecting pool nearly to the Washington monument.

"It is so humbling to get to be with you patriots, you who are motivated and engaged and concerned, knowing to never retreat. We must restore America and restore her honor," she said.

She said she spoke not as a politician but as the mother of an Iraq war veteran.

Conservative television host and author Glenn Beck organized the rally and also gave a call to action, based on God, individual initiative and national pride.

"Do we choose to look back or do we do what every great generation in America has done in times of trouble. Look ahead. Dream about what we are going to become, not worried about what we are. Look forward, look west, look to the heavens, look to God and make your choice," he said.

Nearly all the crowd was white. Many had T-shirts supporting different tea party organizations, a grassroots movement which opposes big government in non-military matters.

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But Beck's rally was not the only one laying claim to the Martin Luther King Jr. legacy.

Civil rights groups marched and sang in a rival event called "Reclaim the Dream", that took place at a local high school.

A competing rally in Washington Saturday highlighted a different vision for America's future.

A competing rally in Washington Saturday highlighted a different vision for America's future.

Clifton Arrington, who attended King's "I Have a Dream" speech 47 years ago, led a group of marchers from the New Jersey-based rights group, People's Organization for Progress. "I think there needs to be a lot more work to be done in the United States of America and freedom and justice is not what it should be for all people. That is why we are still marching and trying to realize the dream," he said.

He had no comment on the other rally, but another participant, Tehuti Imhotep was angry. "If a wolf puts on sheep's clothing that does not mean it is no longer a wolf. It is still the wolf in sheep's clothing. So if you disguise racism of today in another way, like Beck, it is the same form of racism," he said.

Watch Raw Footage From the "Reclaim the Dream" Rally:

Many at the "Reclaim the Dream" rally felt the tea party movement started in opposition to Barack Obama, the first African American U.S. president.

Protesters on the National Mall also put up a sign with the word "dream", pointing to Martin Luther King Jr., and the word "nightmare", pointing to Glenn Beck.

It caused several boos and arguments from participants going to and from the "Restoring Honor" rally.