Thousands rally in diverse counterpoint to Beck, tea-party activists

Thousands rally in Washington

Valley residents attend the event

Staff/wire report


Thousands of liberal and labor activists rallied in the nation’s capital Saturday and in other U.S. cities, calling for young or disillusioned Democrats to vote in the November elections.

If conservative Fox commentator Glenn Beck’s late-August rally invigorated tea-party enthusiasts to vote for Republicans, many of those who turned out for the “One Nation Working Together” event saw it as their chance to shout back.

The Mahoning Valley had several people attend Saturday’s event in Washington, D.C., including 94 members of United Auto Workers Local 1112 at the Lordstown General Motors complex.

“The message was to continue to assist President [Barack] Obama and give him the help he needs,” said Glen Johnson, Local 1112’s vice president. “People forget easy. We need to remind people that he’s been in office for only [21] months. The person he replaced [George W. Bush] was there for eight years.”

Jim Stanton, Local 1112’s financial secretary, said those at the rally were committed to focusing on increasing the number of good-paying jobs in the country.

“I’m optimistic and believe that things will get better,” he said. “The only way to do that is to invest in people, and the economy will grow. But it doesn’t seem realistic to change problems in just 21 months. These problems didn’t happen overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight.”

Participants at Saturday’s rally were determined but appeared fewer in number than at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event. Enrique Alvarado, 29, a student from Boston College, charged that tea-party activists are “intolerant and racist,” and said, “This crowd is a much more diverse and representative crowd of people.”

MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz whipped up the midday crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“The conservative voices of America, they’re holding you down!” Schultz shouted, calling them “forces of evil.” He said conservatives “talk about the Constitution, but they don’t want to live by it. They talk about our forefathers, but they want discrimination. They want to change this country.”

Schultz said progressive activists haven’t gotten all the policies they wanted in the first two years of the Obama administration; they were obliged to stand by the Democratic leadership. “This is no time to back down! We cannot give up on Nov. 2!”

“We can maintain the momentum; that is our challenge,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime civil-rights activist.

More than 400 organizations endorsed Saturday’s event, from gay-rights groups to a D.C. voting-rights coalition to the AFL-CIO and the SEIU. They promoted a grab-bag of causes from job creation and higher pay to universal health care, more public-school funding, ending the war in Afghanistan, supporting Palestinians, giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, promoting civil-rights protections for gays and Muslim-Americans and vegetarianism.

Soraya Gardner of Yardley, Pa., a union member, said she’s sick of “the racism, the tea-party stuff.” She, her husband and her daughters stood with signs reading: “The Coffee Party: Wake up America!” and “Hey Glenn, We’re here. You’re not. Honor restored. You’re welcome.”

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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