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Election reform rally held in Tallahassee, without Jesse Jackson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNN) -- About 1,000 demonstrators gathered for the "Fairness in Democracy Rally" at Florida's state capitol Saturday to call for healing and election reform. Notably absent was the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was supposed to be a featured speaker.

The peaceful event coincided with George W. Bush's swearing-in, but NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume told CNN the event was not about protesting the inauguration but about moving forward with change.

"While the eyes of the nation are on Washington, and on this inauguration, we've come back to Florida to say that we remember and we must not ever forget," Mfume told a fired-up crowd. "These two events, simultaneously and noteworthy, produce for us an interesting juxtaposition. The contrast hearkens our attention to the need for a nationwide uniform system for casting ballots and counting ballots that's the same -- no matter what state you're in, no matter what you might look like, no matter what the election is."

Democratic state Rep. Kendrick Meeks added, "This rally today is not about (being) upset about things didn't turn out the way certain people wanted them to turn out. We're here to say in the coming days, when we go back home, that we're going to do common things uncommonly well -- that, in 2002, that's what I'm waiting on. We'll let folks know that we'll do what we have to do in regards to voter registration."

Speakers included other local leaders and representatives from a broad coalition of organizations including the AFL-CIO and the National Organization for Women.

While most focused on voter registration and election reform, a number a speakers had strong words for Republicans.

"What happened in Florida will go down in history as a coup d'etat, " said Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla. "We're not talking about guns, we're talking about in the privacy of the capitol here in Tallahassee. We're talking about [Secretary of State] Kathleen Harris, we're talking about [Florida Gov.] Jeb Bush."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson chose not to attend today's rally. A Jackson spokesman said Friday the civil rights leader would not attend because he wanted to continue reconciling with his family after this week's revelation he had fathered a child out of wedlock.

Nonetheless, Jackson's support remained strong at the rally. Several speakers mentioned him by name, one calling for a moment of prayer.


Saturday, January 20, 2001



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