The Rev. Jesse Jackson blasted President Reagan on Saturday as a late entrant in Hands Across America, arguing that Reagan's policies had created the poverty and homelessness that the event is attempting to alleviate.
Jackson, in San Francisco to deliver a commencement address at Golden Gate University School of Law, said Reagan's role in Hands Across America damages "the spirit of the event."
"We deserve a President who will not offer cake, prayer clothes, flag and glitter as a substitute for a sound diet for our nation," Jackson said, adding that Reagan's participation was "obscene. . . . He should not be in the line. His policies created the line, the first rise in malnutrition in 10 years. His presence does violence to the spirit of the event."
Organizers of the Hands Across America hope that 5 million people will join hands at noon today in a human chain stretching 4,152 miles from New York to Long Beach in an attempt to raise $50 million for the nation's homeless and hungry. Most will have paid at least $10 for the privilege.
President Reagan reversed an earlier decision steering clear of the event and decided that he would join the line as it made a detour onto the White House grounds, a spokesman announced Friday.
Saturday, Reagan wished the other participants good luck and said in his regular weekly radio talk: "I can wish you nothing finer than the satisfaction of knowing that you've given of yourselves to help others."
Reagan, who has emphasized the role that volunteer action can play in helping the needy, told his radio audience, "In the past few years we've witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of charity and good will, a reassertion of good old-fashioned neighborliness, now that our country has regained its self-confidence."
As the deadline neared, Hands Across America organizers were reporting people signing up by the thousands. Spokesman Dave Fulton said the number of people deciding to join the line was rising faster than it was possible to count.
'At 3 Million and Rising'
"We're at 3 million and rising, but it's a guess at this point because the states are swamped with phone calls," Fulton said.
A disparate group of well-known Californians counted themselves in, including cartoon character Mickey Mouse, actresses Jane Fonda and Bo Derek and Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.).
Cranston, who is running for reelection, said he will participate in the Hands Across America effort by reaching across the California-Arizona border to hold hands with Derek near Blythe, Calif.
Other celebrities who had agreed to join the Hands Across America line Sunday will include Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) and actor Jeff Bridges in Santa Monica; Gregory Peck and Sidney Poitier in Beverly Hills; actress Charlene Tilton in Riverside; United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez in East Los Angeles; actresses Leslie Uggams and Drew Barrymore along with Mayor Tom Bradley in downtown Los Angeles; actor Stacy Keach, director Steven Spielberg and Yogi Bear and other Warner Brothers cartoon characters in the San Fernando Valley, and actor Anson Williams and actress Shelley Duvall in Blythe.
In Orange County, the line will pass through Disneyland, where Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters will be part of the link.
For Los Angeles and Orange counties, the weather forecast was for fair skies with highs in the low to mid-70s at the beaches to the low and mid-80s inland.