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Marchers demand action on jobs legislation

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Sat October 15, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Protests speakers chastise both parties
  • The goal of the march is to bring attention to unemployment worries
  • It takes place the day before the ceremony opening the King Memorial

(CNN) -- On a week when the word "Occupy" has been on activists' lips, a march with a narrower focus took to the street in Washington Saturday.

Organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, hundreds of people marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial to call attention to the country's unemployment woes.

"We come to take out country back to the people," Sharpton said at a rally that preceded the march.

The march was originally scheduled to coincide with August's opening of the MLK.National Memorial, but postponed due to Hurricane Irene. The rescheduled opening ceremony for the memorial is Sunday.

Rev. Al Sharpton leads jobs march

Saturday's march began at the National Sylvan Theater by the Washington Monument and will conclude near the King Memorial.

A number of speakers at the rally used some of the same rhetoric used in the growing Occupy movement, citing the disparity between the wealthiest 1% of Americans and the remaining 99%. Greed by banks and financial institutions was mentioned by more than one speaker, to the approval of the crowd.

But the focus of this rally was jobs, and the political football that has kept any jobs legislation from being passed.

The speakers reflected a mostly left-leaning ideology, but politicians from both parties were taken to task.

Walter Andrews, President of the Communication Workers of America, chastised both "mean-spirited Republicans" and "weak-kneed Democrats" in Congress.

"We demand jobs with justice," he said.

Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray echoed that sentiment.

"We need a Congress that is going to act, that is going to stand up to create jobs," he said. "it's time for people to go back to work once again,"

In an earlier interview with CNN, Sharpton spoke specifically about Obama's $447 billion jobs bill that sputtered in the Senate. The president has been facing headwind in the advocacy for his plan, but Sharpton hoped to rally support for it.

This week, Republicans in the Senate introduced their own plan to create jobs.

At the rally, he warned lawmakers that, "If you can't stand up for the unemployed, we're going to vote to make sure you join the unemployed."

Saturday's march, like all marches, is designed not to solve problems, but to expose them, Sharpton told CNN.

"Being quiet has gotten us nothing but rising unemployment data," he said.

CNN's Nigel Manuel contributed to this report.

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