Ground Zero Mosque Opponents, Supporters Turn Out to Demonstrate

Opposition is "metastasized antisemitism," community center planner says.

ByABC News
August 18, 2010, 2:25 PM

Aug. 22, 2010— -- Protesters went head to head today at the site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

Chants both for and against the center resounded in the streets of lower Manhattan.

"Hallowed ground, that's a lie, you don't care if muslims die!" blended with "USA, USA!"

The project, which is called Park51, has created a national debate over religious tolerance and sensitivity to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

The proposed center is two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. It has often been referred to as the "Ground Zero Mosque," although its supporters say it would mainly be a community center, not principally a mosque.

Critics charge that having what they call a mosque so close to what they consider hallowed ground is an insult to the 9/11 victims' families, especially because the attack was perpetrated in the name of Islam.

At the demonstrations today, the New York Police Department estimated 250 people showed up in support of the center.

"I am surprised that in America in 2010 racism and bigotry has found another face. Now it is against the Muslims," said Ali Akram, a supporter of the proposed center.

Almost 1,000 people showed up to make it clear they do not support the proposed community center and mosque, according to the NYPD.

"I am here to protest this nonreligious mosque, which is a symbol of Muslim victory," protester Carl Blum said.

The opposition included union construction workers who have created the "9/11 Hard Hat Pledge." The construction workers involved are refusing to work on the site.

"I would definitely refuse to work on it," one construction worker said. "I think it's just too close to home here."

Just days after the attacks on the World Trade Centers, President George W. Bush went to a mosque in an attempt to make a distinction between Islam and terrorism.