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Controversy over Million Man March picks up pace

October 16, 1995
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Anthony Collings


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Almost everyone's talking about the Million Man March. But the leader of the march was silent Sunday. Louis Farrakhan canceled TV talk show appearances citing exhaustion.

In Miami, African-Americans boarded a bus to Washington with high hopes for the march.

"For me it's a great feeling, to be on the same page, work for the same goals," said one man.

But mixed with the hope, there was also some tough talk. "We warn people that you've got to respect us. We've been respecting you for too long. you got to respect us," said another man.


Among the early arrivals in Washington, civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. She is scheduled to speak on Monday. But most people aren't waiting until then to speak out -- on what they think of the march.

"I feel ashamed that it's happening here in our nation's capital," said Betty Fleischman, a Washington resident.

"I think it's fantastic. I hope it's more than a million," said resident Mary Gordon.


Two Jewish protesters complained about Farrakahn's comments on Jews. They had some support from others: "I agree Louis Farrakhan is a racist. He says white people are children of the devil. I can't voice my opinion?" asked a white onlooker.

"You can say whatever you want, sir," replied a black police officer.

One person who wasn't talking Sunday was the march organizer. Spokesmen for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said he canceled TV appearances because of exhaustion and decided to use Sunday as a day of rest. "Despite repeated assurances from his staff and security force, Mr. Farrakhan has decided not to answer our questions," said NBC's Tim Russert.

Other commentators had strong feelings on Farrakhan and the march. "There are some things I'm concerned about the march, quite frankly. I think the exclusion of women," said attorney Johnnie Cochran on NBC's Meet the Press.


"The state of emergency in which the black community finds itself...our pain, our predicament, is driving the march. In many ways the key organizers are Clarence Thomas and Newt Gingrich," said Rev. Jesse Jackson. (145K AIFF sound or 145K WAV sound)


"This is truly a march to elevate Louis Farrakhan and a march that would allow for his views of hatred and his views of sexism to be promoted, and that is why I will not support it," said Rep. Gary Franks, R-Connecticut. (135K AIFF sound or 135K WAV sound)

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole said the Million Man March and its "well-intentioned" participants would be better off without Minister Louis Farrakhan and his "message of hate."

In a statement issued by his campaign Sunday, Dole said, "If you want to talk about anti-Semitism, it's written all over Louis Farrakhan."

The Republican presidential contender continued: "His anti- Semitic slurs continue to prove that he has no place posing as a moral leader. He spreads suspicion, separatism, and hate wherever he goes. No cloak can cover the ugliness of Farrakhan's purpose. So my view is, if he would just leave the march, it would be better off."

Dole was campaigning in Florida Sunday in preparation for November's GOP straw poll.

But even some who seldom agree with Farrakhan, hope that something good will come from the march.

"I like the talk about self-reliance, about picking yourself up, cleaning up our cities and getting kids off drugs," Dole said, "But I don't think Farrakhan should be the leader of the march."

Disagreements persist. But, amid all the preparations, there's one thing everyone agrees on: the Million Man March will be the focus of nationwide attention, whatever message people take from it.


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