Liberal groups plan Mall rally

WASHINGTON — Liberal groups hoping to revive enthusiasm before the midterm elections are encouraging members to show up on the Mall on Saturday for a rally that they expect to draw tens of thousands of people.

Their aim is to reclaim the sense of excitement that surged among left-leaning groups after the 2008 presidential race but more recently has belonged to tea party groups and other conservative activists. Conservative commentator Glenn Beck filled the Mall with tens of thousands of his supporters last month.

The organizers of the Oct. 2 rally, dubbed One Nation, are calling it the "most diverse march in history." The amalgam of 300 progressive groups — environmentalists, antiwar activists, church and civil rights groups, union organizers, gay rights coalitions and others — is planning four hours of speeches, singing and spoken-word poems.

"We lose separately, and absent of a strategy to work together we will continue to lose," said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green for All, an environmental group supporting the march. "We have to be able to take critical action on all of the issues facing this country. We're at a critical moment in history, and we have the opportunity to move forward in a really significant way."

The One Nation groups hope to set up a kind of competition with the tea party movement. If their rally is successful, organizers will try to hold the groups together to become a revived political force. They are promoting the rally through their network of groups, on liberal radio, and on television host Ed Schultz's show.

"We aren't the alternative to the tea party, we are the antidote," said NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, who has also been a lead organizer. The team that produces the NAACP's annual Image Awards show will put together the program for One Nation.

It is unclear how many people will make it to Washington for the rally, but organizers' expectations are high.