New York 1 News

April 10, 2003

Rally at Ground Zero    

Thousands Rally At WTC Site In Support Of U.S. Troops

With U.S. forces tightening their control of Baghdad, thousands of people rallied near the site of the World Trade Center Thursday afternoon to show their support for American troops fighting in Iraq.

Governor George Pataki was among the speakers at the mid-day event, which was organized by a group of unions led by the Building and Construction Trade Council of Greater New York, which represents more than 100,000 union workers. Thousands of them attended, joined by firefighters, veterans, and the families of servicemen and women in Iraq.

Thousands waved U.S. flags and chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" in front of a large banner reading "Support Our Troops."

"Look at the Iraqis dancing in the streets of Baghdad, embracing our troops and cheering our president," former Senator Bob Dole told the crowd. "The gulag that Saddam and his henchmen took three decades to create, Tommy Franks and his coalition forces took only three weeks to dismantle."

Other speakers included union leaders and relatives of military personnel.

"They need to see and know that we are behind them all the way, and that we are extremely proud of them and the sacrifices they have made," said Sehila Macias as she displayed a photo her husband, a U.S. marine. "We are waiting here with open arms for your return."

"We're here to send the message of what American really thinks – that we stand behind our president, we stand behind our troops," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch. "And we are sending a message to the world – you attack us, and we'll attack back."

The rally wasn't on Governor George Pataki's official schedule, but he showed up to declare that the war really started on September 11.

“You won that first battle of this war and now our troops are winning the next battle in Iraq today,” Pataki said. “We stand with those troops. America stood with us on September 11. Today we send the message loud and clear that New York stands with America.”

Unlike the anti-war rallies of recent weeks, the rallying crowd made it clear they don't just back the troops; they back the war itself.

“This is America, the troops need our support and that is what we are here for,” said a New Yorker at the rally.

“I feel that Saddam Hussein is a threat to world peace and I'm afraid of the chemical and biological weapons that they were obviously producing,” said another.

Support for the war is rising in New York City, though it is still significantly less than in the nation overall, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. Fifty percent of city residents surveyed said they support the war, and 44 percent said they disapprove. Another poll found men who live in the city support the war by a margin of 59 to 36 percent, while women oppose it 51 to 42.

But the women who attended the rally left no doubt about where they stand.

“I know what it is like to live outside and the United States is a really good country and no matter where you go, you never feel as safe and as much freedom and opportunities as you have over here,” said a woman.

Said another: “This war is about freedom and democracy. I believe that since this nation was based on that, we have an obligation, a duty to help those that cannot help themselves.”

An earlier survey on March 25 found 37 percent of New Yorkers supported the war. Nationwide, support for the war has remained steady at about 70 percent in several polls.

The new poll also found more men – 59 percent – in the city support the war than women – 42 percent. Along racial lines, 63 percent of white respondents supported the war compared to only 40 percent of blacks.

Opinions on the president are split in the city, with 46 percent approving of George W. Bush's job performance and 46 percent disapproving. That’s an improvement for Bush, who had a 41 percent approval rating in New York two weeks ago.

The survey of 726 city residents has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.