On the eve of the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, over 2,000 New Yorkers gathered downtown to show their support for the controversial Park 51 community center and mosque. Organized by the NYCLU and the New York Neighbors for American Values coalition, gatherers were encouraged to wear white and carry American flags, but no signs of protest. Instead, gatherers listened to music and thoughts from faith leaders and city officials. Vigil organizer Peter Hogness told NY1, "To me this says I love New York because it is diverse, because we have the whole world in New York and we treat everybody equally."
Participants of all walks echoed Mayor Bloomberg's remarks on the "Ground Zero" Mosque, saying the country should stand up for religious freedom. City Councilwoman Margaret Chin told the crowd, "We stand together for peace, for justice, for equality, for harmony, for tolerance, for understanding, and for unity and that is what America is all about." Rosalyn Baxandale, a history professor, said, "I'm for tolerance and freedom of religion. Intolerance plays into al-Qaeda's hands."
Even groups who are protesting the community center say they will hold off today, feeling that the September 11th memorial services were not an appropriate time to hold rallies. One local said, "I don't think it's necessarily inappropriate. Probably not the best thing to do. Inappropriate from a legal perspective, no. From a sentimental perspective, probably yes."