A few dozen demonstrators attending a rally on the Mall once billed as the Million Muslim March were vastly outnumbered Wednesday by a Christian group objecting to their event and a counterprotest consisting of motorcycle riders honoring Sept. 11 victims.
The noon rally, called the Million American March Against Fear took place between 13th and 14th streets in Northwest and was sponsored by the American Muslim Political Action Committee.
Speakers — among them author and Princeton University professor Cornel West — struck mainstream themes, calling for social justice for Muslims while promoting peace and condemning violence. Attendees also held a moment of silence to honor Sept. 11 victims.
Ruby Sous, from Kansas City, stressed that Muslims and American-Muslims “stand with America against terrorism.”
“We want to stand here in solidarity with the American people against hate and violence,” she said.
But other speakers addressed fringe topics, condemning what they called the use of U.S. tax dollars to kill innocent people in the Middle East and advancing conspiracy theories around the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
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Christian counterdemonstrators heckled the group, with some holding signs that read “One nation under God” or disparaging the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
“You picked the wrong day,” counterdemonstrators shouted at times.
U.S. Park Police gathered in force for the event. Officers deployed around and among the groups to keep them separate.
In the background, staggered clusters of motorcycles could be heard riding in the vicinity, but road closures kept the bikers from the immediate area of the rally. The motorcycles were part of the 2 Million Bikers to DC ride held, which drew thousands of bikers from around the country to a hastily arranged event honoring Sept. 11 victims and protesting the Muslim rally.
Isa Hodge, chief of operations for the political action committee behind the Muslim rally, complained that one cluster of riders drove by and revved their engines, disrupting the moment of silence for Sept. 11 victims.
Overall, Mr. Hodge said he was pleased with the turnout. The group had obtained a permit from the National Park Service several months ago for 1,000 people.