Originally published in the New York Times at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/03/us/03rally.html?hpw
Liberal Groups Rally, Challenging Tea Party
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of union members, environmentalists and peace activists rallied at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, seeking to carry on the message of jobs and justice that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. trumpeted at a rally at the same site 47 years ago.
More than 300 groups organized Saturday’s march to build momentum for progressive causes like increased job-creation programs and to mobilize liberal voters to flock to the polls next month.
The rally’s sponsors, including the N.A.A.C.P., the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza, said they also hoped to demonstrate that they, not the Tea Party, represented the nation’s majority.
Organizers called the march “One Nation Working Together,” saying they hoped it would be an answer and antidote to what they called the divisiveness of the Tea Party.
“We believe that by working together we can build abundance to lift up everyone,” said Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers. “We can’t do that through divisiveness. We believe that we have to rebuild a social movement in America.”
The rally was held on a cloudless day, with American flags atop the Lincoln Memorial’s stairs and a sea of yellow, red, blue and purple T-shirts stretching out below, worn by members of various civil rights, peace and union groups.
Demonstrators flew in from Los Angeles and Denver, took buses from Oklahoma and Tennessee, and carpooled from New York and Massachusetts.
They shouted “Yes, we can!” and carried signs saying “We March for Hope Not Hate,” and “N.A.A.C.P. Says Tell the Senate More (Good) Jobs Now.”
“I think we’re all here because we want our voices heard in Washington,” said Beverly Webber, a recently retired accounting specialist for Alaska Airlines who flew in from Seattle. “I want less defense spending and more spending on infrastructure and green jobs.”
Jerry Richards, a worker at a Chrysler plant, was carrying a sign saying “Good Jobs Now,” after having grabbed a seat on a caravan of nine buses that left Warren, Mich., at 9 p.m. Friday.
“Our forefathers fought against the English, and if you’re not fighting for something, you’re just sitting on your couch,” Mr. Richards said. Standing alongside a close friend who has been unemployed for two years, he said his top issue was job creation.
Noting that they began planning their rally in April, organizers said they were not responding to a march organized by Glenn Beck, which drew enormous crowds to the front of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28. But they acknowledged that their hope was to draw an even larger crowd to Saturday’s event.
Significant areas of the National Mall that had been filled during Mr. Beck’s rally were empty. In a broadcast on Thursday, Mr. Beck criticized the liberals’ march, saying his supporters paid their own way to drive to Washington, while labor unions chartered hundreds of buses to ferry demonstrators to Saturday’s rally.
Mr. Beck’s rally resembled a religious revival, but Saturday’s event was overwhelmingly a political and policy pep rally, although it largely avoided partisan language.
The march’s organizers were heavily emphasizing on Saturday that they were seeking to energize voters to elect candidates they believed would do more to reduce unemployment and raise taxes on the richest Americans.
“Coming out of here, we’ve got to go home and ask our friends to vote and we’ve got to ask our neighbors to vote,” Benjamin T. Jealous, president of the N.A.A.C.P., told the crowd.
Earlier in the day he said “10-2-10,” the shorthand for the Saturday march, “is very much connected to 11-2-10,” which is Election Day. “We’ve come too far to turn back now,” he said. “We have to build momentum to create prosperity. Right now, a lot of Tea Party folks are pushing for tax cuts for the top 1 percent. We have to focus on jobs for the other 99 percent.”
On Thursday Mr. Beck warned that the march included Marxist, Communist and revolutionary groups. Among the organizations endorsing the march were the Communist Party USA, the United Church of Christ, Jewish Funds for Justice, the National Urban League, the National Baptist Convention, People for the American Way and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
“This is a big tent,” Mr. Jealous said. “Anyone who wants to stand up to create jobs and defend the jobs of teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters — I say come on and join us.”
He said the rally’s sponsors welcomed groups that endorsed their goals, including a higher minimum wage, immigration reform, improved public education and an end to the wave of foreclosures. But he said that did not mean that the organizers agreed with all the policies of every group that endorsed the rally.
Sponsors said the rally was not vying with the “Rally to Restore Sanity” that Jon Stewart, the host of “The Daily Show,” has scheduled for Oct. 30 in Washington.
The Rev. Leah Daughtry, coordinator of Saturday’s march, said the rallies shared many goals. “We want to help make sure there is an energized and educated electorate,” she said.