Sharpton to Bush: Black vote 'is not for sale'
From Wayne Drash
The Rev. Al Sharpton
The Rev. Al Sharpton: Votes not for sale
BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- In a fiery speech aimed at President Bush's recent appeal to African-American voters, the Rev. Al Sharpton on Wednesday told the president that blacks earned the right to vote under Democrats and it's "not for sale."
"Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn't gained because of our age," he told the Democratic National Convention, his voice booming through the FleetCenter arena. (Read transcript)
"Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of good men, soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us.
"This vote can't be bargained away. This vote can't be given away."
Shouting to be heard above the roaring crowd, he said, "In all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale."
Delegates jumped to their feet, throwing their arms in the air and enthusiastically clapping. In a span of seven minutes during the 20-minute speech, Sharpton received seven standing ovations.
Sharpton -- who had competed for president during the primaries -- strayed from his scripted speech, a draft of which had been distributed to the media and which did not contain heated rhetoric toward Bush.
The Kerry campaign has been screening speeches all week to try to keep a positive emphasis.
Sharpton's beef with Bush dates from last Friday in Detroit, when the president went before the National Urban League and sought votes from African-Americans.
"I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote," Bush said. "But do they earn it and do they deserve it?"
Sharpton was at that speech, and Wednesday he said of the Bush, "I hope he's watching tonight."
"Mr. President, I heard you say Friday that you had questions for voters, particularly African-American voters. And you asked the question: Did the Democratic Party take us for granted? Well, I have raised questions. But let me answer your question," he said before outlining his beliefs.
He also roundly endorsed Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards: "They are men who say what they mean and mean what they say."
African-Americans have expressed disappointment that President Bush did not meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP. He is the first president since the 1930s who has not met with the NAACP.
Earlier in the day, Amos Brown, the senior pastor of 3rd Baptist Church in San Francisco, the oldest church in the West, said the Bush administration has fallen far short.
"As an African-American," he told CNN, "my biding concern is this nation. We need a president who is going to give us peace through his leadership and prosperity. When this nation prospers, African-Americans prosper."
"We've done our homework, we've checked the facts. At the end of the day, we need to retire Mr. Bush back to Crawford, Texas," Brown said.