Brooklyn Tea Partiers?
by Vegas Tenold
It was supposed to be a rally about parking. Somehow it turned into praise for Qu’ran burning, declarations of war and enough vitriol to warrant almost 20 police officers.
Almost before it began, it became clear that the crowds lining Voorhies Avenue for last Sunday’s rally against a proposed mosque had different concerns than the local residents.
Earlier this year, the Muslim American Society bought a lot on a residential part of Voorhies Avenue announcing that they wanted to build a community center with an after-school program and prayer rooms.
Neighbors oppose the plan, saying that the area is residential and that the street can’t handle the additional cars that the community center will bring. They also fear that the mosque will bring down the value of their homes.
On Sunday, houses on Voorhies Avenue were plastered with signs reading “Religion is not an excuse for zoning violation” and “If it doesn’t fit then don’t build”. Bay People, a group of residents, had arranged the rally. Their arguments, however, quickly drowned out.
At noon, at least 100 people crowded the sidewalk, with more people arriving. Many were holding American flags. Others had draped themselves with them. Signs reading “NO M.A.S.” referring to the Muslim American Society, were ubiquitous. Several signs linked the M.A.S. to Hezbollah and Hamas, and a large banner announced the presence of the Brooklyn Tea Party. Across the street were the supporters of the community center, holding signs that said “We Say No To Racist Fear” and “Muslims Are Welcome Here”.
Few of Sunday’s speeches mentioned the concerns heard earlier about parking and home values. John Kenneth Press of the Brooklyn Tea Party said in his speech that “Islam has been fighting the West for 1400 years. Do they believe in freedom in the Middle East?”
People shouted “Hell No!”
“Do we believe in it here?” asked Press
“Yes!” screamed his supporters.
After Press had left the podium a woman who identified herself as a realtor, claimed to oppose the mosque because the M.A.S. had overpaid for the site. “Let me get you a better deal!” she pleaded with the demonstrators across the street.
A young man pointed at the mosque supporters across the street. “Unlike these terrorists, I stand in front of you unmasked! This is a war! And we’re all soldiers!” He then praised the burning of the Qu’ran calling it a miracle of free speech and asked the crowd if “we need to see Brooklyn and America raped by people who aren’t from this country?”
The next speaker gave his speech in Russian.
The mood became increasingly vitriolic. A woman with a sign saying “NO MOSQUE 1 GOD” screamed at two Muslim girls with American flags. “Let go of the flag and get back to your own country!” Shouts of “Racist!” from the other side became louder. More police arrived.
Steven Peskin, who lives nearby, stood with the people supporting the mosque. “I don’t think the mosque should be built.” he said. “This is a residential area, and I think it will be too crowded. But I don’t agree with those people. It’s not about Islam and the West. It’s about parking. Why are these people here?”
The rally ended with the loud speakers repeatedly playing an audio clip from 2000, where Muslim American Society’s Mahdi Bray appears to be supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
Ibrahim Anse, the community center’s project manager, was not surprised by what happened on Sunday. “It’s all politics, and they’re using these people for a public show.” He said that many of the protesters are outsiders brought in by the Brooklyn Tea Party. “The Tea Party are using the people on Voorhies Avenue.”
John Press said that the concerns of the Brooklyn Tea Party are the same as those of the residents on Voorhies Avenue. “We are all worried about people teaching hatred in our communities.”
Press says that the Muslim American Society are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian organization that supports Hamas and Hezbollah. The FBI have found no such links, but Press says that he has his own evidence.
“It does not make us safer to have the vanguard of Muslim conquest in our communities,” he said. “There is a clear and concerted effort to increase the Muslim population in America. These people don’t like us.” He does acknowledge that it is unlikely that the people who demonstrated against him on Sunday, most of whom were women and children, are actual terrorists. “Most Muslims are law abiding citizens. They don’t have the energy to do violent jihad, just like most Christians don’t have the energy to live like Jesus.”