Cable commentator Glenn Beck kicked off a major rally of conservative activists at the Lincoln Memorial Saturday, in what he billed as a non-partisan event that features former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and other speakers.
Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally is taking place on the 47th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and at the same spot on the National Mall, on the steps of the memorial.
Beck has said the rally would "reclaim the civil rights movement" and greeted the thousands gathered along the Mall with soaring predictions.
"America today begins to turn back to God," he said.
Attendees were encouraged not to bring political signs and flyers. Skeptical Democrats have countered that the event is "blatantly political." Many in the crowd wore shirts and hats in the colors of the American flag.
Falling on the anniversary King's famed speech at the same location, the event has drawn especially strong criticism from civil rights leaders aligned with Democrats. Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, the NAACP and other groups were to lead a "Reclaim The Dream" counter rally and march to the mall.
"In '63, they went to Washington for a strong national government to protect civil rights," Sharpton said in an interview earlier this week. "He and Palin are going there for a weak national government and to advocate state rights."
Beck previewed Saturday's event Friday night to an audience at the Kennedy Center and thousands of supporters watching on line. "I'm convinced that not just this event, but this time period is going to be remembered as the beginning of the great awakening in America," he said.