Farrakhan calls American families to action

Reuters/October 16, 2000
By Sue Pleming

Tens of thousands rallied in Washington on Monday for the "Million Family March," hearing a call from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to strengthen America's families and the institution of marriage.

Timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of his "Million Man March," Farrakhan decried the "poison" infecting U.S. families and oversaw a mass wedding ceremony in a spectacle seen more frequently in the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, a co-sponsor of the rally.

With the imposing Capitol as a backdrop, Farrakhan also used a lengthy three-hour address to urge people on the sprawling Mall to vote in the Nov. 7 presidential election.

He did not endorse either Democratic contender Vice President Al Gore or Republican nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush. But he did warn Gore he would be "punished" four years from now if he is elected and does not govern wisely.

"I hope that on Nov. 7 you will go to the polls and vote your conscience," Farrakhan told the crowd, criticising both candidates for not tending enough to the needs of the poor and young.

Speaker after speaker called for people to vote.

"I know the importance of voting and of being in office. One person can make a difference. ... We must vote in large numbers," said former Washington Mayor Marion Barry.

Focus on rebuilding the family

Organisers had hoped to mobilise one million families on Monday but attendance on the vast Mall appeared to fall far short of that target.

Police stopped giving official estimates after the Million Man March because of a dispute over final figures. March organisers said more than 1 million attended that event while police put the figure at just 400,000.

Farrakhan's main focus was on the American family, which he said was in trouble, and on strengthening marriage, the bedrock of the family.

"The human family -- black, brown, yellow and white -- we all seem to be frozen on a subhuman level of existence," said Farrakhan. "The family is the basic unit of civilisation and so everything must be done to care for the family."

During the mass nuptial scores of couples appeared on several stages set up along the Mall. Farrakhan also renewed the wedding vows of thousands of couples in the crowd.

Farrakhan appeared at a Unification Church marriage ceremony in 1997 in Washington and has since travelled to South Korea as a guest of Moon, who is said now to be his close friend.

The family march was lower key than the 1995 rally, which drew criticism for being aimed only at black men. At the time, Farrakhan's role was also under fire because of his frequent anti-white and anti-Semitic statements.

He appeared to have toned down his strident views and made a point during Monday's event to welcome people of all races and religions.

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