On The National Mall, Divisions Kept In Check

  • James Johnson of Delray Beach, Fla., attends conservative commentator Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
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    James Johnson of Delray Beach, Fla., attends conservative commentator Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP
  • The crowd stretched from the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the grass of the Washington Monument.
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    The crowd stretched from the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the grass of the Washington Monument.
    Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
  • A man salutes during the national anthem.
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    A man salutes during the national anthem.
    Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • Thousands gathered around the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool.
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    Thousands gathered around the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool.
    Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
  • "We are worried about what we face," Tea Party champion and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told the crowd. "Sometimes, our challenges seem insurmountable."
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    "We are worried about what we face," Tea Party champion and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told the crowd. "Sometimes, our challenges seem insurmountable."
    Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • "Look around you,"  Palin told the tens of thousands of people estimated to have turned out for the event. "You're not alone."
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    "Look around you," Palin told the tens of thousands of people estimated to have turned out for the event. "You're not alone."
    Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
  • Beck, who billed the event as nonpolitical, calls his own ideals "Christian faith-based patriotism." That sentiment united the crowd, which cheered whenever God or Jesus Christ was mentioned in a speech.
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    Beck, who billed the event as nonpolitical, calls his own ideals "Christian faith-based patriotism." That sentiment united the crowd, which cheered whenever God or Jesus Christ was mentioned in a speech.
    Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • The event took place on the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington, during which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
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    The event took place on the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington, during which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
    Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • Tami Ernst and her brother John, both from Houston, get in character for the rally.
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    Tami Ernst and her brother John, both from Houston, get in character for the rally.
    Alex Brandon/AP
  • Chester Sims of Fleetwood, N.C., waves an American flag. Beck and Palin appealed to the crowd to help restore traditional American values.
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    Chester Sims of Fleetwood, N.C., waves an American flag. Beck and Palin appealed to the crowd to help restore traditional American values.
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP
  • Beck waves as he arrives to speak in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
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    Beck waves as he arrives to speak in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
    Alex Brandon/AP
  • Activists at the event said their show of strength was a clear sign that they can make a difference in the country's future.
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    Activists at the event said their show of strength was a clear sign that they can make a difference in the country's future.
    Alex Brandon/AP

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The National Mall in Washington, D.C., became a crossroads of American politics Saturday. Two rallies represented two very different ideas of what this country is and should be. Tens of thousands of conservatives gathered to honor the military and Christian values, while a much smaller group demonstrated in honor of the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington.

Fox News personality Glenn Beck has brought together small-government Tea Party activists and traditionalist social conservatives with this message: "We simply must remember who we were, who we've been, who we can be — not what we've allowed ourselves to become."

And though Beck insisted the event he hosted at the Lincoln Memorial was not about politics, he enlisted the support of a pretty popular Republican: Sarah Palin.

"May this day be the change point!" she told the roaring crowd. "Look around you, you're not alone! You are Americans!"

The crowd packed in around the reflecting pool and spilled out over half the National Mall, almost to the Washington Monument. Couples planted their folding chairs and families grabbed space under trees. As far as Washington demonstrations go, it was calm and genial, almost like a massive church picnic.

Betty Fitzgerald, who came down from Morton, Pa., wore a button on her lapel with a photo of Beck.

She said the day was not about politics, but about values.

"I guess maybe just to be a better person, and be good to your friends and neighbors ... and ... that kind of stuff always chokes me up a little," she said.

Fitzgerald and others said those values do inform their politics. And there were quite a few Tea Party activists in the crowd.

Joe Alek made the trek from Cinnaminson, N.J., with this message for elected officials: "You know, so we're not going to buy the lies anymore. Every politician wants us to buy in to them so that they stay in power. That's going to stop."

They're going to have to stand for something, he said, and keep to the Constitution.

"And when they don't follow that, they're out," he said. "Republicans and Democrats — don't matter."

The Rev. Al Sharpton (right) walks with others past the Washington Monument i i

hide captionThe Rev. Al Sharpton (right) walks with others past the Washington Monument to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial site in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. The march commemorates the 47th anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech.

Jim Watson/Getty Images
The Rev. Al Sharpton (right) walks with others past the Washington Monument

The Rev. Al Sharpton (right) walks with others past the Washington Monument to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial site in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. The march commemorates the 47th anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech.

Jim Watson/Getty Images

Keeping The Peace

The other rally in Washington on Saturday was hastily organized after black leaders realized Beck's event would take place on the date — and at the same site — of King's "I have a dream speech" 47 years ago. But demonstrator John Cook of Matawan, N.J., said they weren't trying to disrupt the conservative rally.

"You know, it's not about division; it's about us trying to reclaim the dream that Martin Luther King had 47 years ago," he said, "because a lot of the things that he spoke about have not been achieved today."

And when ralliers did cross paths later in the day, both sides were careful and polite.

It was a day that Cheri Newell said she won't ever forget. After a long bus trip from Valparaiso, Ind., she said it was worth it to be with Beck and the huge crowd of conservatives who were moved by his message.

"I love my country and I love the lord," she said. "And that's why we're here."

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