Rev. Al Sharpton Criticizes Beck and Palin Rally

Sharpton also plans to hold a rally on the anniversary of MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

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BY Richard Sisk
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON - Right-wing media stars Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, supported by a Tea Party cast of thousands, will try to lay claim to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy in a rally Saturday on the National Mall.

That's not sitting well with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is planning his own rally to mark the 47th anniversary of King's galvanizing "I Have a Dream" speech.

With Fox News commentator colleague Palin as his keynoter, Beck is hosting a "Restore Honor" gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial - the site where King made his historic address.

"This is going to be a moment that you'll never be able to paint people as haters, racists, none of it," Beck said on his show. "This is a moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement."

Beck, a Tea Party movement favorite, said he initially was clueless that the rally coincides with the MLK anniversary. But he now thinks it was "divine providence."

"Whites don't own Abraham Lincoln, blacks don't own Martin Luther King," Beck said.

Sharpton, whose National Action Network is sponsoring a "Reclaim the Dream" rally, scoffed at Beck's aim to restore honor to the nation: "I didn't know he had it."

Sharpton said he is concerned the Beck rally will focus on divisive issues such as the controversy over the mosque near Ground Zero rather than "building an equal society."

"They probably will raise it," Sharpton said of the mosque issue. Beck and Palin are vociferous foes of the mosque plan.

Sharpton's rally at Dunbar High School, with Martin Luther King 3rd and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will be followed by a march to the planned site of the MLK Memorial near the Lincoln Memorial.

But Sharpton said he will avoid any confrontations with the Beck group. "We're not going to desecrate the memory of Dr. King," he said.

Beck claimed his rally will be nonpolitical and is hoping his crowd will surpass the estimated tens of thousands who joined the 9/12 Taxpayers march last year that fueled the Tea Party movement.

But official GOP groups have steered clear, and even some Tea Party activists are skittish.

"We have no involvement in it," said a Republican National Committee spokesman. Paul Affinita, executive director of the Tea Party365 group in New York City, said "We're not officially supporting this. We're more focused on fiscal responsibility."