NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Fury and frustration were in the air near Ground Zero on Sunday, as two groups of protestors shouted their messages at each other – and the city – just steps from an Islamic Center on Park Place.
It was rainy and wet, but that did nothing to dampen the passions of those who don’t want a mosque near Ground Zero.
There were signs using dripping, blood-red letters reading “Sharia” to describe Islam’s code of law, and hundreds of American flags, as people from all over the metropolitan area converged in Lower Manhattan. They said they’ll take whatever steps are necessary to prevent the building of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks.
“Enough is enough,” protester Andy Sullivan said. “I don’t care if I’m all by myself in front of that building. I will stand with that wrecking ball, right in the trajectory. They will have to crush me to get to that building.”
“No mosque, not here, not now, not ever!” said Dr. Herbert London of the Hudson Institute.
Worried police cordoned off the entire block on Park Place, where developers want to build a 13-story, $100 million mosque and cultural center. An officer stood guard at the door, and the NYPD “Eye in the Sky” reinforced the security.
Among the protesters were 9/11 families and former firefighter Tim Brown, a 9/11 responder who escaped Tower 2 just before it collapsed. He lost 93 friends that day.
“I’m offended that they are trying to leverage the deaths of my friends to recruit people into Sharia law,” Brown said. “This is a radical Islamic law that goes against everything the United States Constitution speaks to. We will not let that happen on the cemetery of our friends, and the cemetery of my friends.”
“In their religion, they believe that you build a mosque on the site of your recent victory. Is this appropriate?” Stonebrook resident Margaret Buck said.
“The World Trade Center was a symbol of America, and they want to shove their symbol up our you-know-what,” John Castelucci, of Oak Ridge, NJ, said.
“It’s an insult at the location where it is,” Hazlet, NJ resident Thomas Tucker said. “They can build a mosque anywhere in the city. They don’t have to build one this close to such sacred ground.”
Patriotic songs were also the order of the day.
“The flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away, and I’m proud to be an American,” former police officer Daniel Rodriguez said.
The protestors say they will not back down and will continue to make their case in the courts – and the court of public opinion.
After the rally, demonstrators marched to Ground Zero, where they paid their respects to those who lost their lives there.
Just a block away from the opponents’ demonstration, several hundred people staged a pro-mosque rally. Some supporters called those who oppose the mosque “un-American.”
A group of close to 200 counter-demonstrators gathered in the driving rain two blocks north of the proposed mosque, and their message was clear.
“The constitution says everyone has freedom of religion,” said rally organizer Elaine Brower. “It doesn’t matter if it’s two blocks from a building that was there, or right on top of it.”
Police kept a firm lane drawn separating the pro-mosque demonstrators from the larger group of people opposed to the Park Place mosque, but some anti-mosque demonstrators infiltrated the crowd and had to be escorted out.
Others, like retired FDNY firefighter Daryl Patterson – who was about to join the anti-mosque rally – just watched the supporters and wondered.
“We support religious freedom, but at some point in our lives, we have to have a little common sense and some sensitivity,” Patterson said.
Interfaith minister Reverend Todd Engle praised the mosque’s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, as being a man who wants to promote healing.
“How can you heal away from where the wound is? The wound is here,” Rev. Engle said. “The imam is the spiritual advisor. If anyone can bring that healing, it would be the imam.”
Organizers say they will keep demonstrating until ground is broken for the new mosque.