Photo from the Staten Island Advance/Anthony DePrimo
From the Staten Island Advance:
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- More than 200 people peacefully protested the proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan at Veterans Memorial Square, across from the Rescue 5 firehouse, Concord, on Sunday.
The protesters, many of whom lost friends or relatives on 9/11, were led by former Rep. Vito Fossella.
Though the former GOP congressman has remained out of the public sphere for some time, Fossella said he felt it necessary to speak against the proposal for an Islamic center because he had vowed after 9/11 never to forget what had happened.
He did not say whether his appearance marked a possible return to the political arena.
"We made promises to be the voices of those that died on September 11, 2001," Fossella said. "A mosque on that site undermines the efforts to ensure that that hollowed ground remain sacred."
In May, the Republican executive committee stunned the borough political establishment when it endorsed Fossella for Congress. Though Fossella vetoed the endorsement, he left open the possibility of running in the future.
Also present was Rep. Peter King (R -Long Island), a close friend of Fossella's in the House.
The rally was somber at times, as protesters spoke of their loved ones who died in the World Trade Center nearly nine years ago.
Though those in support of the mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan attempt to disassociate themselves from the attacks -- indicating that the facility is meant to be a place for peaceful prayers and gatherings -- those at the protest said building a mosque near Ground Zero symbolized disrespect for people who suffered as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
"I think it's not about the site, it's about the people who were lost on September 11th. It's about the lives that were affected," said Mike Coppotelli, an aide to South Shore Assemblyman Lou Tobacco, who was also at the rally.
"We talk about religious sensitivity and people being sensitive to each other and cognizant of decisions -- it's a two-way street," he added. "Is it responsible or respectful of them to build it there when there is such strong community opposition?"
Others pointed out that while Muslims were asking for religious freedom, the same is not granted in their homeland.
Said Tom McComiskey of Huguenot: "When we can build a Christian church in Mecca, then they can build a mosque at Ground Zero."