New York Cops Prepare to Handle Rival 9/11 Demos

At least six separate groups are planning demonstrations Saturday for and against the proposed Islamic cultural center near the site of the 9/11 attacks, say law enforcers in New York City. Nevertheless, the New York Police Department and other agencies are well prepared, and authorities are not expecting major trouble, according to a senior city official who asked not to be named discussing law enforcement planning. The senior official says three groups have indicated that they intend to demonstrate against the "Ground Zero mosque," and three others are planning to hold counterdemonstrations.

Authorities say the biggest protest is likely to be staged by a group calling itself Stop Islamization of America. Its principal organizers are two vehemently anti-Muslim bloggers, Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs and Robert Spencer of JihadWatch. Speakers originally billed for the rally included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.S. United Nations ambassador John Bolton, and Andrew Breitbart, known for his role in promoting ambush videos of the community activist group ACORN and former Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod. But rally organizers now say Bolton and Breitbart will be sending video messages rather than appearing in person, and Gingrich's name is no longer on the list of speakers. According to a Gingrich aide, the former House GOP leader had a conflicting engagement and never agreed to appear at the rally. The top headliner now seems likely to be Geert Wilders, an anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant politician from the Netherlands.

Other anti-mosque protests are being organized by a Kansas group calling itself Elijah Ministries. A posting on the Ministry's Web site describes how 15 of the group's "saints" recently stationed themselves outside "the gates of hell"—referring, apparently, to three entrances to a mosque in Wichita—and handed out literature urging Muslims to convert to Christianity. The posting adds that a contingent of "saints" would be in New York for the 9/11 anniversary. A third anti-Islamic demonstration is being planned by activists from the Tea Party movement, the senior city official said, though there is some expectation that Tea Party followers could merge their protest with the Stop Islamization demo. And lining up against the anti-mosque protesters are a handful of groups led principally by a coalition of left-wing activists called the International Action Center.

Both sides' demonstrations are expected to begin only after the end of a solemn official ceremony commemorating 9/11 victims. The authorities are planning to maintain a separation of several blocks between the pro- and anti-mosque marchers, and thousands of New York City police officers will be deployed to ensure that the demonstrations are kept under control. Authorities say that they expect the biggest problem from the protesters is likely to be traffic disruption, not violent confrontations.