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Tens of thousands attend progressive 'One Nation Working Together' rally in Washington

Progressive groups hoped to draw tens of thousands of supporters to the One Nation Working Together march as a show of force to rival the conservative tea party movement.

More than 400 groups endorsed the "One Nation Working Together" rally, which organizers said drew a crowd of 175,000 people - about what they expected. Beck has estimated that 500,000 people came to his gathering. There are no official counts of crowds on the Mall, and the National Park Service no longer provides such estimates.

The crowd Saturday, which stretched down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial then petered out down the sides of the reflecting pool, heard repeatedly that voters must band together to keep the country from going back to conservative policies. Speakers also called for a more robust jobs program funded by the federal government and the passage of big legislative programs, such as overhauling immigration laws and providing more money for education.

Still, attendees echoed some of the same frustrations that tea party protesters have been bringing to the Mall during the past 18 months - though their goals are different.

Kimberly Hall took a bus from the Detroit area with 45 members of the NAACP and her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. "I don't like the direction the country is going in," she said. "The auto industry built this country and we are giving it away. We need to take care of home before we start to support other nations."

Luz Villafana, a retired city worker and union member, flew from San Diego because she worries that her children had a better chance for a good education than her grandchildren do.

"We have to demand that the Congress represents us, not the corporations," said Villafana, who wore a purple Service Employees International Union t-shirt.

The leaders of the march celebrated its diversity - in terms of race and the motivations of the attendees. It began with an ecumenical faith program, and groups supporting a variety of causes gathered in their own niches before joining together. The range of participants - who included youth groups to members of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America and the Church of the Evangelical United Church of Christ - showed the tensions in the coalition.

The socially conservative National Baptist Convention stood beside members of the Human Rights Campaign, and members of the mine workers union rallied with environmental activists.

Holding the coalition together is the next challenge.

"The truth is there is a lot of focus on the march itself, but a march without a plan of action . . . is simply a one-day event," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "What this is about is using this march as a launching pad for policy change."

Staff writer Lori Aratani contributed to this report.

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