Two hours after the end of a Ku Klux Klan rally at the Capitol yesterday, more than 150 people gathered in a downtown church for a rally of prayer, song and rhetoric protesting President Bush's veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1990.
Bush last week vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for women and minorities to win job discrimination suits.
The Senate on Wednesday fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.
The rally, hastily organized by Jesse L. Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition and others after Bush's veto, filled more than half the hall of Metropolitan Baptist Church at 1225 R St. NW.
A dozen candidates for public office -- including Jackson, who is running for a shadow Senate seat -- worked the crowd before and after the event.
"We're incensed that a president of these United States -- on the eve of the 21st century -- would have the temerity, the chutzpah, the unmitigated gall to slam-dunk black people in their face and say, 'You shall not be free,' " said the Rev. H. Beecher Hicks, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist.
Referring to the Klan march, Jackson warned that the real obstacle to black ambition is not "white sheets" but "black robes."
"When you look at the Klan march, the real issue is stacking the Supreme Court," he said. The civil rights bill was aimed at reversing two recent Supreme Court decisions narrowing workers' rights to sue on discrimination issues.
Jackson, who has made the drive for District statehood the centerpiece of his campaign, said the outcome of Wednesday's override vote would have been different had the District had two voting senators.
Jackson was in the gallery during the veto override debate, as was Louisiana state Sen. David Duke, a former Klan member.
"David Duke stood in the galley and rejoiced as Martin Luther King Jr. turned over in his grave," Jackson said.
"If we had had two statehood senators from Washington, we would have won our quest by one vote," he said.