When I got out of the subway at Church and Chambers streets Saturday afternoon the most immediate impression was of the enormous and well-organized police presence flooding the streets. Linked sections of steel grate fencing had been set up at every intersection and down every street in the vicinity of the rally to channel and control the crowds.
A police helicopter hovered overhead and a truck-mounted boom hoisted an armored and air-conditioned police observation cab above the rally from behind the stage at the intersection of West Broadway and Park Place. The NYPD had made every provision for controlling the event and left little opportunity for riot, mayhem, or disaster, whether caused by altercations between pro and anti-mosque forces or Islamic jihad terror attack or leftist assassins (Geert Wilders = Pim Fortuyn). There were two nails-hard security men flanked behind Geert during his speech scanning the crowd with eagle eyes, one of them clutching an oversized briefcase probably containing some sort of lethal emergency equipment.
The anti-mosque rally crowd was mostly contained within the two blocks before the stage, from Park Place to Warren streets. Those two blocks had been set with total crowd control gates and massive police presence. Maybe 3000 people or so were contained in that area. After Geert spoke John Bolton appeared on the big screen behind the stage, looking slightly comical in his mop of hay hair and white moustache, like the absent-minded professor of Jihad. Bolton started droning and I left, my ears bleeding from the over-amplified PA system, to walk around the perimeter of the rally site. It was a carnival atmosphere, with small groups of protesters and counter-protesters, signs and shouts and a hovering mob of camera-wielding, microphone-shoving slobs (why is it the people with professional-looking camera gear are always so slovenly?) keen to find any situation that promised a dramatic shot or confrontation to videotape. The counter-protesters were sent straight from Central Casting in dirty T-shirts, blue-jeans, birkenstocks, tattoos, and signs about racism, fascism, and tolerance.
I then went and walked the perimeter of the vast Ground Zero site. Some steel building structures are finally managing to lift themselves out of the rubble amidst a forest of construction cranes. There were many, many other people circumambulating the Ground as well, taking this day of remembrance and parading as pilgrims do visiting a holy site. A small group of Buddhists, identified by three orange-robed, bald-headed Tibetan-looking guys in the middle (the others looked to be Jew-Bu’s) had camped themselves on a patch of grass where they banged drums, burned incense, and droned incomprehensibly. Here I got a photo of my favorite leftist sign of the day: “The Attack on Islam is Racism! Pictured below that idiot slogan was a photo of a young Cassius Clay and Malcolm X together with three black children. Apparently the logic is that since these blacks are Muslims, to oppose Islam is to oppose blacks and that’s racist. Of course “racism!” is the most powerful weapon in the liberal arsenal and so they use it for everything. This magical incantation sanctifies the liberal while demonizing his non-liberal enemy. “Racism!” is their mysterious Kryptonite that causes whites to crumple and puddle into abject pools of subjection and humiliation. Find a way to neutralize liberal’s precious “racism!” and we’ll have a better shot at restoring America. But I digress.
The site of Ground Zero is quite large and the day is warm so by the time I arrive at O’Hara’s Irish pub on the southern border I need to pop in and wet my whistle. The place is filled with a boisterous crowd of firemen and blue-collar types. Back on the street, passing the scene of a dedication ceremony for The Memorial Wall, a 56-foot-long bronze bas-relief sculpture/plaque commemorating the 9/11 responders. Passing by Engine and Ladder Company Number 10 on Liberty street, right under the former shadow of WTC Tower 2, whose company lost six men that day. Their doors are open and they’re having what looks like an open house with folks visiting and talking with the firefighters. Continuing on up the East side of Ground Zero, past Century 21 and not even tempted to desecrate the day by popping in to shop. The sidewalk outside is stuffed with a multi-ethnic horde making off with sackfuls of discount clothing plunder. On a corner a scraggly man with a battery-powered megaphone makes a case for Islam’s degeneracy while flanked by a pair of scragglier hecklers. On the next corner the same scene repeated with a Christian proselytizer. A crew of Code Pink grrls strolls by. I give a friendly nod to a good-looking group of beefy guys wearing blue T-shirts embroidered with “English Defense League.”
By this time I’m back where I started, I can hear the anti-mosque rally is still going on, but I’ve had enough and descend down into the subway bound for home. It was a fine and lovely day. Geert is great and I wish traditional America had a prominent political leader of such courage. I won’t criticize Geert for his emphasis on the liberal aspects of his anti-Islam message. Politics is a practical art and must use strategies calculated to build as strong a base of support as possible, within reasonable limits. And that means winning over more liberals. I think there are very good reasons liberals should join us in opposing Islam, since the various Islamic oppressions are often held in horror by liberals. The alliance of liberals and Muslims is ripe for fracturing along the deep fissures dividing them, and Geert’s approach is arguably effective in reaching those moderate and reasonable liberals who have serious misgivings about Islam’s more barbarous aspects. While his message of freedom, democracy, and tolerance may play well with liberals and perhaps win some over, ultimately I don’t think it can be effective, alone, in ejecting Islam from the West. “Freedom, democracy, and tolerance” are also the rallying cry of those who defend the mosque, only in their minds it means the freedom of Muslims to worship and tolerance for Islam among us. That can be confusing. We do well to emphasize and reemphasize the everlasting mortal danger of Islam and jihad terror, the violence of its founder and its violent history, and the incompatibility of Islamic sharia and the West. Who could be our American Geert Wilders? We need one. At least one.