A variety of voices about the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’


By Lincoln Anderson

Saturday’s protests both for and against the Islamic cultural center being planned for Park Place near Ground Zero brought out everyone from anti-abortion activists to atheists to a man walking around lugging a 12-foot-long wooden cross over his shoulder while handing out religious pamphlets. Everyone had something to say — actually, quite a lot to say.

The ‘Web guy’ and friends

Matt Sky, center at right, has been standing outside the planned Park51 project site every day for the past three weeks, five to eight hours a day, holding up his “Support Freedom of Religion” sign and other signs urging tolerance. An East Villager, he’s a self-described “Web guy.” Motoo Unno, a professor from Tokyo’s Meiji University, far right, was hanging out with Sky on Saturday during the protests. Serina Yancey, a substance-abuse counselor who lives in Tribeca, joined in for the photo.

“I saw a guy burning a Koran next to me,” Sky said. “I pulled out the sign I have: ‘Real People Don’t Burn Korans.’ A bit of it got into my eye. We need to stand our ground but be peaceful, don’t call them bigots. I had a firefighter yell at me today. I feel bad — I don’t disrespect firefighters. Someone gave me an American flag — that felt really good. Who cares if some guy in Afghanistan claims it as a victory mosque? Let’s not be a country that lives in fear. We’ve gotten through worse things than this.”

Unno said, “I’m teaching cross-cultural communication. This is very good!”

“When 9/11 happened,” Yancey recalled, “we all came together — black, white, Spanish, Jewish — unity. It was really nice. I talked to people in my building I’d never spoken with in all the years before.”