New York is preparing for the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks amid ongoing controversy over a proposed Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero. Officials are ready for protests planned for Saturday's commemorations.
This artist calls himself John Q. Public. He says his depiction of salt poured on the open wound of 9/11 reflects the opinion of Americans who oppose construction of an Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero. "It's the wound that is so deep and painful against the clenching fist. When you get cut you clench your fists from the pain. And the wound is so deep … still," he said.
He placed his easel in front of the proposed Center. Other activists there support the right of Muslims to practice their faith without interference. They include freelance web developer Matt Sky. "Even if you don't agree with the group, you uphold the principles of this country. It stands for a greater purpose that protects all of us," he said.
Activists on both sides of the issue plan demonstrations Saturday. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says local law enforcement has plenty of experience controlling demonstrations. There are more than 600 of them each year in lower Manhattan alone. "The fact that it's on 9/11, obviously we'll have to have more officers deployed because there are all the events going on in the city related to 9/11. But we'll certainly be able to handle it," he said.
Meanwhile, officials have announced agreement on the redevelopment of Ground Zero which was held up by disputes mostly over financing. The final project will include a museum and memorial garden to open on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks as well as skyscrapers bordering the memorial.
"There are two priorities that we have. Number one is to build something that will give the families a place to remember their loved ones, but for all the rest of us, freedom-loving peoples, not just New Yorkers, not just Americans, but people around the world, tell the message to our children and grandchildren," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The entire project is expected to be completed by 2014. It includes Freedom Tower, which will be the tallest building in North America.