The U.S. Department of Education’s spokesperson hung up on The Daily Caller Wednesday when seeking clarification regarding the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s planned speech at an Aug. 28 protest march that the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) are holding to counter Fox News commentator Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally.
The NAN’s “Reclaim the Dream” march is an attempt to keep attention off Beck’s highly publicized rally happening the same day in the same city, redirecting the focus to what Sharpton and the NAN say is the real meaning of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have a dream” speech. The date, Aug. 28, is the 47th anniversary of King’s iconic speech.
Duncan recently wrapped up a nationwide education tour with Sharpton and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, which is the only topic the Department of Education would comment on.
“Newt Gingrich, Reverend Sharpton and Secretary Duncan enjoyed visiting some of the highest performing low income schools in the nation and we look forward to visiting Dunbar High School with the Reverend later this month,” Justin Hamilton, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education, said in an e-mail to TheDC, answering a question that wasn’t asked.
Hamilton hung up the phone on TheDC when contacted for further comment, refusing to answer actual questions, including whether Duncan believes the Tea Party is racist or if he believes Beck is trying to “hijack” the American dream, or comment any further on Duncan’s planned participation in the rally.
Sharpton’s rally is scheduled to start at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., because, the NAN said, the focus is supposed to be on improving education. According to the District of Columbia Public Schools website, only 19 percent of students at Dunbar High School received proficient reading scores and only 25 percent received proficient math scores in 2009.
“The reason it is going to be at Dunbar High School is because Rev. Sharpton said education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” Rachel Noerdlinger, a spokesperson for the NAN, said.
Also, Noerdlinger said people should not perceive Sharpton’s event as a “counter-rally” to Beck’s event, and she accused several media outlets of trying to frame the event like that.
“Rev. Sharpton said he was going to do this in April,” Noerdlinger said.
On Monday, though, the NAN released a statement about its “Reclaim the Dream” march, saying that while its members are demonstrating, Beck and Tea Party members will be on the other side of Washington pushing “for the expansion of states’ rights,” what the NAN said is the “exact antithesis” of King’s message.
“While across town at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the conservative tea party members and TV host Glenn Beck will attempt to hijack the dream, at the same time civil rights activists will convene at Dunbar High School to shed light upon key issues that have diminished the dream,” the NAN said in its statement.
Sharpton was quoted in a blackvoicenews.com story asking black people nationwide to attend his rally, which, by extension, he says casts doubt on Beck’s message.
“On the anniversary of the March on Washington, Glenn Beck is going to talk about the dream of Martin Luther King and how he was with them – not us,” Sharpton said in the blackvoicenews.com article. “So, we’ve been traveling all over this country because there is no way in the world that I am going to allow him to have more people there than us. I hope every Black person in the country will help us to challenge this.”
For Sharpton’s rally, the NAN is bussing in black people from around the country to see Sharpton and other speakers the NAN booked, including NAACP President Ben Jealous and Duncan.
In an e-mail to TheDC, Jealous said the NAACP expects “tens of thousands of people from all across the country, of all races and faiths” to attend a march on Oct. 2.*
Sharpton and the NAN plan to march from Dunbar High School to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial on Aug. 28.
On its website, the National Urban League said it plans to join Sharpton and the NAN on their march as well.
Sharpton’s march isn’t the only “counter-rally” anti-Tea Party demonstrators have scheduled for the day. Several liberal groups and artists plan to unveil Celebrate The Dream, a sculptural presentation of four murals representing King’s message, on the Washington Mall, where the Beck rally is taking place.
Clarification: The original article said Jealous was referring to Sharpton’s Aug. 28 NAN march.
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