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Thousands rally in Washington, D.C., for easier access to jobs

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of Americans led by the Rev. Al Sharpton rallied Saturday against the backdrop of the Washington Monument, calling for easier job access and decrying the gulf between rich and poor before marching to the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The rally was intended to drum up support for President Barack Obama's jobs plan, which died Tuesday in the U.S. Senate. But speakers used the platform for varied causes, including condemning state laws requiring voter identification at the polls and protesting the recent execution of Troy Davis, a Georgia man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer. Davis maintained his innocence until his death and attracted thousands of supporters worldwide even though courts repeatedly ruled there wasn't enough evidence to exonerate him.

Chanting for jobs and justice, many demonstrators carried banners for their labor unions and wore pins or T-shirts bearing King's likeness. Obama is scheduled to speak Sunday at the dedication ceremony for the memorial, the first monument dedicated to a black leader on the National Mall.

Sharpton, the featured speaker at the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, blasted the Senate for its failure to pass Obama's $450 billion jobs bill. The measure includes an extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, as well as money to help local governments keep teachers and other workers on the job. Obama and Senate Democratic leaders plan to try to pass elements of the measure by breaking it into pieces.

"If you can't get the jobs bill done in the suites, then we will get the jobs bill done in the streets," Sharpton said to cheers and applause.