By John Catalinotto
New York – In a city that is home to more nationalities than any other in the world, all seemed represented in the crowd of thousands who came to demonstrate in the City Hall area on Sept. 11. They were there to express solidarity with the Muslim community in the struggle over the building of an Islamic Community Center near the World Trade Center site.
Answering the call of the Emergency Mobilization Against Racism & Anti-Muslim Bigotry, people from Boston, Washington and in between joined thousands of New Yorkers in a display of the strength of the anti-racist movement that embraced young and old, people of all the colors of the city and region, gay and straight. The demonstrators exuded a spirit of unity and cooperation by chanting, marching and then chipping in their labor to clean up at the end of the day’s action.
International Action Center co-coordinator Sara Flounders, one of the rally chairs, told Workers World that “10,000 people joined today, coming from dozens of communities in the city. They represented neighborhood organizations, religious groups of all kinds, political and anti-war groups and human rights groups. Many workers wore their union caps or tee shirts.”
Just naming Flounders’ co-chairs gives a modest idea of the breadth of the rally’s support: They were Sayel Kayed of American Muslims for Palestine; Dr. Asha A. Samad-Matias of the Safrad Somali Association and the Muslim Women’s Coalition; Lucy Pagoda of the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights; and Amadi Ajamu of the December 12th Movement. Another 48 diverse speakers and cultural groups gave greetings or performances.
At 3 p.m. the pro-unity gathering far outnumbered an anti-Muslim protest organized by the much-publicized Tea Party. In addition, hundreds of anti-racist protesters, many with home-made signs, were surrounding the Tea Party and showing their opposition to its message of hatred. Just two weeks earlier the anti-Muslim crowd had been getting the main media attention and was pouring money into advertising for their action.
In late August the IAC had put out an initial call for a counter-rally; soon more than 100 organizations had come together and formed the Emergency Mobilization. With little time to organize and less money, the ad hoc group was still able to get out 100,000 pieces of literature in the two weeks before the rally.
“We had to organize on a shoestring budget,” said Flounders, “putting the bills for leaflets and posters and signs on people’s credit cards and hoping we could pay for the demonstration. It was worth it. We showed that a broad section of the city won’t let the racists invade and dominate 9/11.”
The message from the nearly 50 speakers on the stage of the Emergency Mobilization action was a strong one of solidarity and unity — solidarity with the Muslim community in the United States and unity of all the forces who came that day in the struggle against all forms of racism and scapegoating, against U.S. wars abroad and for jobs, education and social benefits at home.
One of those speakers, Larry Holmes of the Bail Out the People Movement, told Workers World, “We brought out the real New York City — a city of workers and peoples of color from all around the world. This mobilization started because we were forced to defend our Muslim sisters and brothers. It will continue because we have to open up the struggle against war, against racism, and for jobs, education and health care. There is much more to fight for and now we all know who we can count on.”