Lunatic Fringe Throngs Outside Solemn Ceremony

Those shut out of the solemn ceremony settled for the carnival sideshow.

New York Post/July 5, 2004
By Matthew Sweeney and Jeremy Olshan

Outside the fence on Church Street, evangelists blamed God for destroying the Twin Towers, conspiracy theorists blamed President Bush, and one group argued the towers should be rebuilt.

"We couldn't see or hear the dedication," said Heather Smith, 24, visiting from California. "But this is great."

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in from Topeka, Kan., carried placards denouncing homosexuals and insisting "American sin" was responsible for 9/11.

When the group began singing, "God Hates America," a police officer assigned to protect them turned his back in disgust, while a pack of Hells Angels bikers revved their engines and made obscene gestures.

"God smote those towers, and he will smote [sic] you too," yelled Katherine Hockenbarger, 23.

"Don't you feel bad about the families you are dishonoring?" fired back Amanda Magyar, 17, who was visiting from Tampa.

The evangelists continued singing.

A block away, activist Peter Taylor waved a paperback book called "The New Pearl Harbor."

"The Bush administration destroyed the World Trade Center to get the American people to support war," he said.

One group of protesters, including subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz, said the dedication of the Freedom Tower signified New York's giving in to terrorism.

The only appropriate response is to build new Twin Towers, he said.

On a more somber note, some of the victims' relatives rallied to make authorities honor a commitment to preserve access to most of the footprints of the towers.

Gov. Pataki and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. orally agreed to preserve 97 percent of the north tower footprint and half of the south tower, said coalition member Anthony Gardner.

"We're not looking to hold up construction, we don't oppose the design, we just want to get this in writing," he said.

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