Protesters in New York City Rally Against 9/11 Trials, Call for Holder to Resign

December 05, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

NEW YORK — Despite a cold and steady rain, the 9/11 Never Forget Coalition managed to attract a few hundred people to Foley Square in downtown Manhattan today to protest Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other alleged co-conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in a civilian federal court here. The rally was held across the street from the courthouse where the men will be tried, and less than a mile from the former World Trade Center, where the attacks occurred.

A variety of conservative groups, Tea Party activists, retired policemen and other New Yorkers who remember the attacks vividly turned out to protest Holder’s decision to “give terrorists the same rights as U.S. citizens.” Many held signs calling for the impeachment of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, at times calling them “the real terrorists.”

Robert Dann, the son of a firefighter from Merrick, N.Y., called Holder’s decision a “moral disgrace.”

“I do not want them here spewing their hate against America,” he said. Like many others at the rally, Dann was also protesting other administration policies, such as “the outrageous spending going on by this government” which he called “pro-socialism.”

Speakers at the rally focused on the 9/11 trials, and called on the audience to protest Holder’s decision and to urge their Congressional representatives to interfere.

“Are you angry?” asked Edie Lutnick, executive director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, which provides aid to victims of terrorism, disasters or other emergencies. “Are you going to do what you need to do to change this?”

Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and National Review contributing editor, told the cheering crowd: “We’re back here, because he thinks it’s a crime, and we know it’s a war,” referring to Holder. “Sixteen years ago, when they declared war with us, we answered with subpoenas,” McCarthy said, referencing the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. “They attacked, and we indicted.”

“There are people here who after 9/11 were fighting terrorists, while the people who are running this government were at Guantanamo Bay representing terrorists,” he continued, apparently referring to lawyers currently in the administration who earlier worked to help Guantanamo detainees secure the right to challenge their detentions in court. (Neal Katyal, now the department’s deputy solicitor general, represented Salim Hamdan in his habeas corpus case, and some lawyers from Holder’s former law firm represented Guantanamo detainees as well.) “We are here because we want justice, we want the rule of law,” said McCarthy.

Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, asked “How are we going to find a jury that can be safe and secure, with Khalid the Schmuck Mohammed?”

Actor Brian Dennehy read a statement from Judea and Ruth Pearl, the parents of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whom Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claims to have beheaded in Pakistan in 2002. From the statement:

We, who witnessed the darkest side of hell, and have since spent every moment of our lives studying the anatomy of terror, we refuse to accept the strategy of normalization that Holder’s decision represents. Terror is a crime against society, and should not be tried in the same court as crimes against individuals or against a particular country.

Toward the close of the rally, the crowd heard from David Beamer, the father of Todd Beamer, the passenger on Flight 93 who led an attack on the hijackers, and uttered the famous last words, “let’s roll.”

“Mr. President, do not convey constitutional rights to the enemy,” he said. “Right this wrong, stop this attack.” Beamer called for Holder’s resignation, and the crowd replied with the chant: “Holder must go!”

This post was updated at 7:02 p.m. to include the statement of Judea and Ruth Pearl.