The event was supposed to be a somber prayer vigil in Oakland, CA -- a "nonpartisan event" meant "to express solidarity with the victims" of the Tucson shooting. But like many media reports this past week, the candlelight vigil eventually degenerated into Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin bashing. With a little Dr. King sprinkled in to support those remarks.
The story comes from blogger "Zombie," who gives a first-hand account of visiting the vigil. The event was sponsored by the East Bay Young Democrats and numerous other liberal organizations, and its goal was "to condemn political violence and violence in the local community." But organizer Jonathan Bair went out of his way to explain it would be a "nonpartisan event" meant "to express solidarity with the victims."
According to Zombie, it wasn't. After some allusions to conservatives and claims of "violence-tinged speech and images" were erased by thoughtful speeches from clergy members, something happened:
And then everything went sour when the MC introduced someone named Roy Wilson, Program Director of Oakland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center. At the climactic moment of this supposedly non-partisan event honoring victims, Mr. Wilson uncorked a rambling word-salad monologue that not only specified the bad guys by name, but devolved into a semi-coherent rant about social justice and racism and more mind-bending mixed metaphors than have ever been crammed into one paragraph. Here we were, trying to feel sympathy for the victims, and we had to endure this (transcription below):
Zombie provides a transcript, and also notices that the Dr. King's "quotes" have been "mangled beyond recognition" (emphasis his):
Roy Wilson: “Dr. King enters this struggle boldly. He says, ‘Violence anywhere is a threat to violence everywhere. An injustice anywhere, is a threat to injustice everywhere. Rhetoric inciting violence anywhere, is a call to rhetoric to incite violence everywhere.’ Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, others in the Tea Party trend, claim that political events tied to violence and rhetoric tied to violence are not causing the division in our nation. Tens of thousands of African-Americans have been lynched in a sea of rhetoric dripping with racist blood. Workers have been shot down on the picket line, drummed under by the rhetoric of mis-accusations. Students have been shot down protesting for peace under the rhetoric of unamericanism. Tens of thousands of Native Americans have been annihilated under the rhetoric of White American exceptionalism. We have to act. Dr. King says that ‘Courage is the ability to go forward in spite of frightening situations. Cowardness’ he says, ‘is a submissive surrender to circumstance.’ We’re asking everyone to ask all of our elected officials at the municipal level, the county level, the state level, the federal government, to pass laws that prohibit the use of rhetoric and actions and campaigns that incite violence. We ask that we all go back to our organizations of faith, our unions, our schools, our high schools, our middle schools, our elementary schools, and create statements demanding that there be communication and debate based on love, based on peace, based on community, based on a stronger democracy. Now, we have to be courageous because some of us may say that’s just not enough, or why, that might not make a difference. Remember, words make a difference. I’ve just asked all of us to do some things and put words in the public, put words with the official seal of our government, put words under the titles of our schools, that say “We are family.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center's website only lists board members, and thus does not list Wilson as a leader. (It does list Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) as the founding chair, and she also spoke at the Oakland event.) However, the site Oaklandseen.com refers to him as "program director" for the center in an article about a recent letter he sent the site.
What did that letter say?
It chastised "media personalities and spokespersons for the political trend that includes the 'Tea Party'" for having the audacity to claim they had not contributed to the recent shootings. It also called on elected officials to:
...create legislation that will prohibit within their jurisdictions campaign literature and events that use language implying acts of violence against political opponents. We ask for legislation that can prohibit words and phrases such as “take out,” “Don’t retreat, Reload,” “kill,” “shoot down,” or other language that serves to divide our people in ways that imply or explicitly incite violence against elected officials, public servants and campaign opponents.
It should be noted that the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center has scrubbed the reference to the "Tea Party" from a version of the letter on its website:
It appears that some media personalities and spokespersons for an extreme political trend reject the position that they, with their actions and rhetoric of violence against elected officials who work for the uplift of the people of the United States, have played a role in creating the environment and conditions conducive to inciting violent attacks.
That's different from the one sent to Oaklandseen.com:
It appears that some media personalities and spokespersons for the political trend that includes the Tea Party reject the position that they, with their actions and rhetoric of violence against elected officials who work for the uplift of the people of the United States, have played a role in creating the environment and conditions conducive to inciting violent attacks. [Emphasis added]
"So much for a non-partisan vigil," Zombie concludes.