Ground Zero mosque rallies expected at 9/11 ceremony
Thousands of protesters from opposing sides of the Ground Zero mosque debate are expected to hold heated rallies downtown Saturday afternoon, resulting in what may be a higher security concern than usual for a 9/11 anniversary.
"There's a lot of crazy people out there, and emotions are going to be flying high," Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) said Thursday at a news conference with supporters of the Islamic Center proposal.
Police would not comment on security specifics for the events surrounding the anniversary.
"We're assigning an adequate number of officers to the detail," said police spokesman, Det. Brian Sessa.
As usual, several street will be shut down near Ground Zero and Zuccotti Park, where the official 9/11 ceremony will take place, police said. A dozen more will be designated no parking zones.
The two groups holding rallies over the Islamic Center, which is proposed for Park Place, are gathering just a block away from each other on Saturday. Organizers defended their decision to hold demonstrations on what is normally a solemn day in New York.
"We are beginning the rally after the conclusion of the memorial services," Pamela Geller, executive director of the anti-mosque group, wrote in an e-mail response.
Meanwhile, Sarah Flounders, co-coordinator for the pro-mosque group, said her members will be promoting jobs and justice, not "the message of hate that will be spewing blocks down."
At least one 9/11 survivor wished the protests were planned for another day.
"I'm very saddened ... that they have politicized the week of remembrance that we have," said William Rodriguez, 49, who managed to escape the destruction at the World Trade Center.
All the commotion will be enough to keep some locals away from Ground Zero Saturday.
"Normally I would like to come down to go to church on Saturday, but now really Im too afraid," said Bernadette Mineruini, who works downtown and lives in Queens.