By: Fern Sidman
On Sunday afternoon, September 11th, over 500 people gathered at Park Place and West Broadway in lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that left close to 3,000 Americans dead. Organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a human rights organization headed by author and activist Pamela Geller, (who achieved notoriety for spearheading the campaign against the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero), the 9/11 Freedom Rally featured members of the clergy, New York City firefighters and police, 9/11 first responders and 9/11 family members who were barred and/or not invited to the official ceremonies that took place earlier in the day.
The decision to exclude religious leaders, rescue workers, police officers and other key first responders as program participants was defended by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who said: “We just don’t have room for them,” claiming space and security are the issues.
In a tone of defiance, AFDI Executive Director Pamela Geller declared, “While White House guidelines forbid official 9/11 ceremonies from mentioning who attacked the U.S. on that day or why, our 9/11 Freedom Rally features more honest speakers. We are here today to honor our war dead and stand for freedom and against the deception and lies being used to subdue us. We must show the jihadists we are unbowed in the defense of freedom.”
Joined by Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, Ms. Geller introduced such speakers as George Demos, New York Congressional candidate, Anders Gravers of Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE); Sudanese ex-slave and freedom fighter Simon Deng; war hero and North Carolina Congressional candidate Ilario Pantano; popular radio host Joyce Kaufman and Helen Freedman, Executive Director of Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI), among many others.
Speaking on behalf of the 9/11 family members were Rosaleen Tallon, sister of hero firefighter and reservist in the United States Marine Corps, Sean Tallon, who was killed in the 9/11 attacks; Nelly Braginskaya, who lost her son Alex; Sally Regenhard, mother of hero firefighter Christian Regenhard, killed in the 9/11 attacks (Regenhard is an American activist who has become one of the leading voices for the families of the victims of September 11); Maureen and Al Santora, who lost their hero fightfighter son on 9/11 and Alan DeVona, 911 first responder.
Reflecting on political realities that have been engendered over the last 10 years and taking aim at the current adminstration in Washington for its directives to whitewash the true motives of the 9/11 attackers, Helen Freedman of Americans For a Safe Israel said, “The Obama leadership today would still like us to be asleep. We are lulled with the myths of mindless multi-culturalism. Interfaith dialogues are encouraged to promote inter-denominational understanding. In today’s modern world, there has been no lack of understanding amongst Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and so forth. What the Obama world is promoting is engagement and understanding of Islam as a peaceful religion, deserving of having its mosques built throughout the United States; its chaplains preaching in our prisons, everyone respecting the sanctity of the Koran, while all along the war is being waged under our noses.”