Million Man March follow-up draws thousands
Anniversary rally dubbed 'World Day of Atonement'October 16, 1996
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EDT
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Commemorating the first anniversary of the Million Man March on Washington, thousands of African-Americans gathered in New York on Wednesday, this time for a rally billed as "World Day of Atonement."
Speakers at the event, taking place across the street from the United Nations, appealed to countries around the world -- including the United States -- to end abuses of power and wealth.
"We believe that only when you can reconcile with God and get clear with him that he will empower us to unify and change the realities under which we live," Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said before the rally.
Farrakhan, the main organizer of the Million Man March and Wednesday's rally, was the featured speaker later in the day.
"The number one problem in America today is white racism," charged Farrakhan aide Khalid Abdul Muhammad, addressing a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands. Police said they would offer a crowd estimate at the end of the day's events.
In Washington last year, organizers of the Million Man March said the National Park Service vastly underestimated the turnout, which was officially put at 400,000. At Wednesday's rally, activist and comedian Dick Gregory turned the dispute into a joke.
"(U.S. spy satellites) can take a picture of a hair on a gnat's left leg," so why couldn't the government provide an accurate crowd estimate last year? he asked. "It must be something about nappy hair and gravity."
Another speaker, Harvard professor Cornell West, lashed out at "corporate power in America," calling it the "vicious legacy of white supremacy."
Winnie Mandela, the ex-wife of South African president Nelson Mandela, appeared on stage but didn't speak. Former NAACP president Benjamin Chavis, a rally organizer also scheduled to speak, told the crowd the U.S. government had barred her from addressing the rally. He did not elaborate, and further information was not immediately available.
Unlike last year's march in Washington, meant to encourage African-American men to take responsibility for their lives, women, children, and families were openly invited to attend Wednesday's "World Day of Atonement."
Many of the women wore long flowing white robes, while many men wore the dark suits and red bow ties that characterize Farrakhan's followers in the Nation of Islam.
The speeches by Farrakhan and others were to be broadcast by satellite to 50 countries around the world, according to organizers.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stayed away, saying Wednesday's rally would be overshadowed by Farrakhan's "rhetoric of hatred." A Jewish group filed last-minute court papers seeking to revoke the organizers' permit.
A related bid by the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha to hold a counter-rally was rejected. But counter-demonstrators were allowed to hold a protest in a specifically set-aside area several blocks from the official gathering. A small number of them held up signs saying "Farrakhan is a racist" and shouted at people arriving for the rally.
Correspondent Gary Tuchmanand Reuters contributed to this report.
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