WASHINGTON — Two large, competing rallies will converge on Washington this weekend, the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend a rally at the Lincoln Memorial organized by Fox News TV and radio personality Glenn Beck, who will be joined by 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
For many civil rights leaders, the time and place of the event, titled Restoring Honor, is an affront.
As Beck and Palin, two of the loudest critics of President Obama, address the crowd on the same steps where King spoke on Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders will conduct a "Reclaiming the Dream" countermarch. Their event will conclude nearby, at the site of the future King memorial.
Sharpton, speaking on his nationally-syndicated radio show Friday, said Beck's supporters can "do what they want to do." However, he described the talk show host as "the heir to the Barry Goldwaters" and those likely to attend the countermarch as "the children of the dreamers."
"And we are not going back to sleep to another dream," Sharpton said, "We are going to fulfill this dream."
Though it comes ahead of midterm elections that could shift control of one or both houses of Congress to Republicans, who have been buoyed in primaries by the enthusiasm and turnout of tea party supporters, Beck has repeatedly emphasized that the event isn't political.
It is, he says on his website, a tribute to "America's service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth and honor."
Conscious of the stigma of some of the anti-Obama imagery of tea party rallies during the health care debate this spring, Beck has urged attendees not to bring signs.
Friday afternoon, though, many of the people who planned to attend the rally say their aim is to send a message to their elected officials, regardless of what day the event is.