By Elaine Brower:
About 10 of us showed up today at City Hall to counter-protest the anti-Islam hate group ACT! For America, or as Larry’s sign said ASS! For America.
Four of us went into the City Hall area and stood on the steps with them, while the rest of our group stood on the sidewalk in front of City Hall with posters, flyering the crowd, and chanting. We milled around prior to disrupting the press conference, and got a flyer spouting the usual hatred of Islam. Pretty bad stuff. The usual islamophobic speeches and angry people. We handed out our flyers, about 200 in all to the passing crowd out on the street side of City Hall, while the four of us went to the press conference.
I made 2 poster size signs that had our usual slogans pasted on them ‘WE SAY NO TO RACIST FEAR, MUSLIMS ARE WELCOME HERE!” We hid them until the press conference started, and climbed up on the steps right behind the speakers, alongside the organizers and some other wackos. No one had any idea what our signs said. It took them about 5 minutes to actually focus on the words!
The press took photos, and that’s when everyone turned around and started yelling at us. “Their not with us!” One of the organizers of the press conference, a woman, don’t know who she was, but all prim and proper, came to me and said “you must leave here. You are not invited.” I said “these are my City Hall steps too. I can stay here.” She was red-faced. At that point Richie was being carted off by police, and he was yelling “bigots!”
Richie said: Two of four police officers that escorted me out as I was screaming actually thanked me. One said “thank you” and the other said “thanks for doing that”. One of the officers at gate gave me a dirty look. A few minutes later two tanned skin gentlemen tried to walk in the gate and the dirty look officer started giving them a bit of a hard time and the officer that thanked me (who I guess out ranked him) told him to let them through.
Mike was standing next to me, and we were just ignoring the snears and orders to leave the premises.
At that point the organizers called the police over and they told us we had to move off the steps. So we stood there a little longer and said ok. Then they said “now!” And we said “ok.” And didn’t move. Of course our hostess with the mostest was red faced and told the press not to start filming, but it was already too late. Then some other big burly guys came over and said we HAD TO LEAVE, WE WERE NOT INVITED!
By this time about 15 minutes had gone by, I made my way down the steps. The police immediately surrounded Mike and he walked out of the City Hall area with them. They carted Mike off physically, with his feet barely touching the ground.
Todd was remaining off to the side just watching the event. Under his arm he had one of our signs, but it went unnoticed for a short time. Todd said: “Yeah I went inside and bumped into an action-friendly photographer acquaintance from The Villager newspaper. I discreetly pointed out Elaine & Richie to the photograper, but tried not to be associated with the other three at first. Later once I saw how they kept letting Elaine stand there and debate and even give a sidelines interview, I got curious and visited. I accepted a smaller sign from her and walked away, not long before they finally escorted Elaine out. Pretty soon this one suit-cop started leaning on me, waiting for an incident to pounce. The speaker said something about Imam Rauf being “swarthy”. Then i finally held up my sign and was instantly told to leave. I cooperated with the suit-cops slowly while hollering loudly, during the fairly long escorted walk out.
Videographers didn’t seem interested but at least we got in a third disruption.”
I was standing there with my back to the police and holding my sign, when a reporter came over to speak with me. Another 10 minutes went by and I gave him an interview. The police were not happy with that. But they weren’t angry, they were pretty cordial. Until some asshole, who was probably a signatory on the hate petition they were delivering to Bloomberg, started getting in my face and yelling at me. He had a nice tan too! I told him that. He said they would arrest me. I said fine. And remained there. Then a few more “nice” city hall police, one of which I happen to know from doing so many press conferences at city hall, begged me to leave. He literally pushed the angry cop away and begged me to move. I said I had every right to be there and wasn’t leaving.
He begged me some more. He pleaded with me and explained that if we wanted to hold a press conference, he would escort anyone who interrupted us off the premises. I said I wasn’t interrupting, I was just standing there, they were yelling, not me. I told them that if I didn’t have to go back to work, I wouldn’t move and they would have to arrest me. He said they weren’t going to arrest me, but I walked off anyway. We had already caused a scene, and pissed off the haters enough to interrupt their press conference. We also got in some good, energetic chanting outside, plus leafleting.
Here’s one of the stories from the press:
Downtown Ground Zero Mosque Opponents Present Petition
By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Opponents of the Park51 mosque and community center took to the steps of City Hall Thursday morning to reignite interest in their cause and unveil a 120,000-signature petition.
“We are not going away,” shouted former firefighter Tim Brown, a 9/11 first responder who sued the city over Park51. “We are continuing to grow. This is not about the election. We are here after the election and we will start this again.”
Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/20101118/downtown/ground-zero-mosque-opponents-present-120000strong-petition#ixzz15kSBCKkh