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Glenn Beck's plans for rally on a hallowed date and spot spurs countermarches

Beck's decision to speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech leads to criticism by social activists and civil rights leaders.

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Beck's plans are "an effort to embarrass and poke a finger in the eye of the civil rights community because Glenn Beck and his public utterances don't necessarily demonstrate a consistency with the vision of King."

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Sharpton, who has planned a march that day to commemorate King's legacy, says Beck's rally contradicts King's legacy. Sharpton said he began planning in April for his "Reclaim the Dream Rally," which is scheduled to begin at Dunbar High School in Northwest Washington and end at the planned site of the King memorial on the Mall. The event, supported by the NAACP, the Urban League and Martin Luther King III, "is not a countermarch to Beck," nor will the rally be about confrontation. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be among the participants, according to a news release from Sharpton's National Action Network.

"For Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to have a march, they have the right to do so. Many of us suspect they are using the symbolism of that day in a way that does not reflect what the day is about," Sharpton said. "At no point will we interchange. We will not desecrate the march and what King stood for."

Morial echoed Sharpton's comments.

"It is very important we convey a positive message that America belongs to everyone," he said. "Our rally is not an 'us against them.' We want no confrontation with Glenn Beck. But we want a confrontation with the ideas he espouses. His ideas seem to be ideas of intolerance."

A 'People's Memorial'

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said that his organization and 200 other groups are planning a rally on Oct. 2 in the District "to pull America back together and put America back to work. . . . On that day we will reflect Dr. King's true legacy and his determination to eliminate poverty, racism and hatred in all forms."

Other organizations are staging "counter-events" on the Mall Aug. 28, including a grass-roots network of artists, community organizers and social activists calling themselves "Celebrate the Dream," which last Thursday secured a permit from the National Park Service to unveil an original sculpture on the Mall that day.

The People's Memorial to King, which organizers say will be 77 feet wide and 37 feet tall, is being designed by Michael Murphy, a 35-year-old sculptor and assistant professor of art at Georgia College and State University.

"We wanted a sculpture no one had seen before," but whose symbolism is clear, said Ericka Taylor, the project manager for Celebrate the Dream. "It should be elegant simplicity."

Murphy, who specializes in large-scale public art installations, said his vision was to create a sculpture that would convey the ideal of "unification and bringing people together."

Murphy describes the piece as a "directional" sculpture "that has four specific vantage points. . . . If you were to stray from the ideal point of view, the message gets lost," Murphy said. "The messages of Martin Luther King become distorted as the individual moves away." As the viewer moves closer, the message is rediscovered.


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