By George Barnette
An estimated 175,000 people descended upon the National Mall on Oct. 2 for the One Nation Working Together rally. It was the first major stand-alone rally for progressive groups who’ve seen Tea Party groups loudly take control of the national conversation about public policy.
“This promises to be the most diverse march in Washington ever,” said NAACP President Ben Jealous. “We have environmentalist and mine workers. We have conservative faith groups. We have Black people, brown people; Jewish, Christians and Muslims; White people, Asian people and Native Americans all working together towards this goal of increase in investment, creating jobs and making sure that every child goes to a great school.”
Featured speakers at the march included National Urban League President Marc Morial, the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and MSNBC personality Ed Schultz.
The speakers may have all came with different messages, but the central theme was to create jobs, generate better educational opportunities, immigration reform and to improve civil rights in America.
Jealous said this rally was different from Tea Party rallies in one major way. He says he agrees with the Tea Party that America has problems, but explained that inclusion and leaning on one another is the way to create change and not the division that he says the Tea Party brings.
“We’re very much the antidote to the Tea Party,” he said. “We’re a different response to the same situation. We’re living in a time where attention needs to be on peace and prosperity. They see that as a battle ground and we see that as a common ground.”
Schultz agreed with Jealous and went even further in his criticism of the conservative movement when he told the crowd “they talk about the Constitution, but they don’t want to live by it. They talk about the forefathers, but they practice discrimination. They want to change this country.”
As conservatives are poised at the polls to use public displeasure with incumbents to advance their goals, organizers timed the rally exactly one month before general elections to insert their plea to voters. Speakers at the rally said they wanted to get the message out that the everything the rally was about would go for naught if people don’t show up to the polls.
“They say we’re apathetic, we’re not energized,” Sharpton told the crowd. “In four weeks we’ve got to be ready for midterm exams. We’ve got to go home and hit the pavement.”
This is not the last rally to be held on the National Mall before the general election. On Oct. 30, Comedy Central personalities Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be orchestrating demonstrations by the groups Rally to Restore Sanity and the March to Keep Fear Alive respectively.