Image: A woman and man make peace signs as thou
Saul Loeb  /  AFP - Getty Images
A woman and man make peace signs as thousands of activists attend the "One Nation Working Together" rally on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument in Washington on
updated 10/2/2010 8:08:26 PM ET 2010-10-03T00:08:26

Tapping into the same anger that fuels the tea party movement, a coalition of progressive and civil rights groups marched Saturday on the Lincoln Memorial and pledged to support Democrats struggling to keep power on Capitol Hill.

"We are together. This march is about the power to the people," said MSNBC host Ed Schultz. "It is about the people standing up to the corporations. Are you ready to fight back?"

In a fiery speech that opened the "One Nation Working Together" rally on the National Mall, Schultz blamed Republicans for shipping jobs overseas and curtailing freedoms. He borrowed some of conservative commentator Glenn Beck's rhetoric and vowed to "take back our country."

"This is a defining moment in America. Are you American?" Schultz told the raucous crowd of thousands. "This is no time to back down. This is time to fight for America."

With a month of campaigning to go and voter unhappiness high, the Democratic-leaning organizers hope the four-hour program of speeches and entertainment energizes activists who are crucial if Democrats are to retain their majorities in the House and Senate. The national mood suggests gains for the GOP, and Republicans are hoping to ride voter anger to gain control of the House and possibly the Senate.

Organizers insist the rally is not partisan. They say the message is about job creation, quality education and justice. However, the largest organizations, such as the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, tend to back Democratic candidates.

And the first speakers hardly shied from criticizing Republicans.

"They want to change this country," Schultz warned participants of Republicans.

More than 400 organizations — ranging from labor unions to faith, environmental and gay rights groups — partnered for the event, which comes one month after Beck packed the same space with conservatives and tea party-style activists.

Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gathered near the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to urge a vast crowd to embrace traditional values. Though also billed as nonpolitical, the rally was widely viewed as a protest against the policies of President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.

One Nation organizers said they began planning their event before learning about Beck's rally, and said Saturday's march is not in reaction to that.

Obama was spending the weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

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Video: Democrats hope D.C. rally gets voters to polls

  1. Transcript of: Democrats hope D.C. rally gets voters to polls

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: Back in this country now, we're exactly one month away from the midterm congressional elections. And amid signs Democrats are facing an uphill battle to hold ground, thousands of party liberals today borrowed a page from the tea party movement, gathering on the National Mall in Washington to try and stir up both passion and Democratic voters. NBC 's Mike Viqueira is there tonight.

    Mike: Good evening, Lester . Before this march, organizers had said it was not about comparing themselves to the tea party or recent marches that had happened here on the National Mall . But as the day wore on, it became obvious that these marchers had one thing in common with conservatives, and that is a frustration and anger with Washington politics. This time it was a show of strength from the left, an attempt to change the story line this campaign season.

    MIKE VIQUEIRA reporting: They had their turn. It's our turn now.

    Mr. VAN JONES (Center for American Progress): Dubbed One Nation Working Together , today thousand streamed past national monuments to gather at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial . It was a patchwork of progressive causes.

    VIQUEIRA: We going to do exactly what we did for Obama . We're going to unify and continue the struggles for working families.

    Unidentified Woman: Coming little more than a month after conservatives met in the same setting, today liberals said that they too are angry about the direction of the country.

    VIQUEIRA: We bailed out the banks. We bailed out the insurance companies. Now it's time to bail out the American people .

    Reverend AL SHARPTON (National Action Network): But with Election Day exactly one month from today, speaker after speaker called on Democratic voters to put their disappointment aside and get to the polls.

    VIQUEIRA: We marched too long for the vote, bled too much and died too young. Don't give up now. Stand up and fight back.

    Reverend JESSE JACKSON (Rainbow Push Coalition): With voter apathy a continuing concern for Democrats , President Obama has launched a series of rallies for party faithful asking for more time to address core concerns while also touting his record on everything from health care to student loan reform.

    VIQUEIRA: And they have a right to be impatient about the pace of change. I'm impatient. But I also know this: Now is not the time to quit. Now is not the time to give up.

    President BARACK OBAMA: With their party expected to make major gains in Congress , today Republicans sought to keep the heat on.

    VIQUEIRA: We've seen a governing party basically tune out the American people who elected them and aggressively advance an agenda that most Americans vehemently oppose.

    Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican Minority Leader): With the political climate now favoring the party out of power, the Republicans , Democrats are struggling to come to grips with voter unrest.

    VIQUEIRA: What you have now is an electorate that's angry in many ways and disappointed in the way things are going. And candidates are able to tap into the anger by seeming to reflect it.

    Mr. RONALD BROWNSTEIN (National Journal): And, Lester , President Obama and the first lady were at Camp David today during all this. Tomorrow he has invited all of his Cabinet secretaries and their families for a daylong retreat. Meanwhile, on the schedule next week, more rallies and more campaigning. Lester :

    VIQUEIRA: All right, Mike , thank you.



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