A few blocks away, near the proposed site of the Islamic center known as Park51, was a two-block-long packed street rally demanding no mosque here.
The New York Post put the demonstration defending freedom of worship at 3,000 and the anti-mosque protest at 2,500. The Daily News claimed the anti-mosque action had hundreds more.
Islamophobia has got to go, demonstrators chanted as they marched several blocks from City Hall to the Federal Building and back. Other common slogans denounced Tea Party Patriots and other mosque protesters as racist bigots. There were a small number of Blacks, Latinos, and Asians at the rally against the mosque.
Im concerned about our rights as American citizens, said Aja Mujinga Sherrard, a student from Sarah Lawrence College who helped organize a group of 32 students from her school to attend the rally.
Im sick of bigotry dressed up as patriotism, said Regan Schwartz, 30, a middle school teacher from Brooklyn, who came with another school teacher from Queens. Im Muslim, Momodou Marong, an unemployed former DHL driver originally from Gambia, said. I came to show my support. Im against racism and bigotry.
Some 50 people spoke, including former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, and peace activist Cindy Sheehan, as well as representatives from a range of political, community, cultural, and religious organizations.
Many on the stage denounced anti-Muslim discrimination and the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Handmade and printed signs included: First Amendment for everyone; No to hate, yes to freedom of religion; and Islam has been in New York for 400 years.
The anti-mosque protest was organized by Stop Islamization of America and chaired by its leader, rightist anti-Muslim writer Pamela Geller. Speakers included John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who characterized Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the central figure behind Park51, as anti-American and criticized the State Department for sponsoring Abdul Raufs recent diplomatic trip to the Gulf.
The featured speaker was Geert Wilders, a Dutch member of parliament and leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), known for his campaign against Islam and Muslim immigrants. We must draw the line, he said, so that New York, rooted in Dutch tolerance, will never become New Mecca.
The following day Abdul Rauf told a meeting of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations that everything is on the table at this point in relation to Park51.
Socialists join action against banning mosque
Oppose rulers assaults at home and abroad
Defend workers rights! Hands off mosque in N.Y.C.
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