Glenn Beck angers Arundel MLK event observers
Civil rights leaders across Maryland plan to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech Saturday at a rally on the grounds of Anne Arundel Community College.
Hundreds of attendees are expected at the noon event at the King memorial statue on the Arnold campus, which coincides with events across the country, including a controversial rally hosted by conservative commentator Glenn Beck and featuring former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington — the site of King’s iconic 1963 speech.
Carl O. Snowden, chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Committee, which organized the Maryland event, said news of the Washington rally has energized Marylanders to come out in greater numbers to celebrate King at the community college. Snowden said he has fielded dozens of calls from people angry that Beck would hold a rally there on the anniversary of the famous speech, but he sees the controversy as an opportunity to galvanize voters ahead of the state’s gubernatorial race and the country’s mid-term elections.
“Every now and again you need someone or something to remind you of why it’s important to continue to struggle,” said Snowden, who is director of the Maryland attorney general’s office for civil rights and said he now expects hundreds of people to attend the event. “Them being at that location is symbolic of something — that freedom is not free. One of Dr. King’s famous lines was ‘Give us the ballot box and we’ll solve our problems.’ It’s our responsibility now to make sure people get to the polls.”
Civil Rights leader Al Sharpton has organized a march and rally on the National Mall in response to Beck’s event, called “Restoring Honor,” which is expected to draw a huge crowd of conservative activists, including those in the Tea Party movement.
The community college event will feature Evelyn Bethune, granddaughter of civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune as keynote speaker. Other participants include County Executive John R. Leopold, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, participants in the 1963 rally and representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Cosponsors of the event include the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, the Anne Arundel County NAACP, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the United Christian Clergy Alliance and several other community groups.
Organizers say it was important to mark this year’s anniversary as the civil rights movement finds itself at a crossroads. Despite electing President Obama as the nation’s first black president, many of the social ills that King tried to remedy still exist, said Snowden, who said it’s important to attend the rally to “remind this generation of the need to become engaged in the struggle to make the lives of future generations better.”
Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the Anne Arundel County branch of the NAACP, said, “It is our intention to have a community celebration of one of the most pivotal rallies that ever occurred in our nation. The 1963 rally changed the course of our nation.”