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Beck, Palin tell thousands to 'restore America'
The attendance at Beck's gathering promises to be a subject of contention. Crowd sizes on the Mall are often controversial and notoriously difficult to estimate, so much so that law enforcement agencies have stopped providing numbers. At one point, Beck joked he had "just gotten word from the media that there are over a thousand people here today." Later, he told the crowd he heard it was "between 300,000 and 500,000."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking soon after the Beck rally at her own impromptu event nearby, said: "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today - because we were witnesses."
Beck, a Fox News host, has developed a national following by assailing President Obama and Democrats, and he warned Saturday that "our children could be slaves to debt." But he insisted that the rally "has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with God, turning our faith back to the values and principles that made us great."
King's niece Alveda King, an anti-abortion activist, addressed Beck's rally with a plea for prayer "in the public squares of America and in our schools." Referencing her "Uncle Martin," King called for national unity by repeatedly declaring "I have a dream."
Many in the audience said they had come because they fear that the country is at a perilous moment. They spoke in stark political terms. They carried "Don't Tread on Me" flags - an emblem of the tea party - and wore t-shirts with such messages such as "I Can See November From My House" and "RECESSION: When your neighbor loses his job. DEPRESSION: When you lose your job. RECOVERY: When Obama loses his job."
Others said they were motivated more by their deep appreciation of Beck, whose talk-radio show is the third-most popular in the country and who heavily promoted "Restoring Honor" on radio and on his television program on Fox News.
John Sawyers and Linda Adams said they flew in from Colorado because they are frustrated at what they call the "ruling class," at the health-care bill they say few supported, at schools that no longer require that students say the Pledge of Allegiance, and at elected officials who run on one platform and govern on another.
"We want our country to get back to its original roots," said Adams, 52, a university administrator who said her ancestors were on the Mayflower and fought in the American Revolution.
"It's not anger," said Sawyers, 47, an engineer who grew up on a farm in Virginia. "It's more, 'Guys, why are we going this way?' It's time for the silent majority to say it's wrong."
Sawyers, a registered Republican, and Adams, an independent, said they were moved to attend by Beck's theme of honor.
"Both of us are unhappy with the perception Obama is apologizing for everything we ever did," said Adams wearing a T-shirt with the slogan "Does the Constitution say we the sheeple?"