New York Daily News

April 11, 2003

Union army backs troops

Thousands rally near WTC


Hardhats by the thousands rallied 'round the flag yesterday across from Ground Zero - the spot, Gov. Pataki said, where "the war started."

The rally, organized by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, turned several blocks along West St. into a sea of red, white and blue hardhats and American flags, with signs hailing the U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

"Where are all those anti-war protesters now?" asked Terry Sullivan, 44, an electrical worker from Brooklyn. "They couldn't wait for the next Vietnam, but this is the silent majority right here, the nuts and bolts."

The noon rally, which shut part of West St. and snarled afternoon traffic, was cloaked in patriotism, with bagpipes blaring and giant speakers blasting "God Bless the U.S.A."

"There's nothing like it," said millwright Thomas Berker, 33, of Borough Park, Brooklyn. "Only in the United States of America!"

Many wrapped themselves in flags or carried signs that said, "I support Bush, the troops, Mom, God and apple pie."

"We got to show up all those people protesting against the war in Iraq," said 75-year-old former Marine Jacob Wagner, of Glendale, Queens. "The people in this city appreciate what's being done over there."

Several speakers tried to connect the war in Iraq with the Osama Bin Laden plot that killed 3,000 people.

"The war started right here on Sept. 11 of 2001," Pataki said.

"We are sending a message to the world: You attack one of us, you attack all us," roared Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch. "And we attack back!"

'I want Osama'

A few in the crowd of about 15,000 said being at Ground Zero reminded them that Bin Laden is still in the wind.

"I want Osama a whole lot more than this Saddam guy," said Brandon Sebastiano, 28, a Brooklyn millwright.

The crowd wildly cheered firefighters driving along West St. and former Sen. Bob Dole, who called President Bush "a man of his word."

The former presidential candidate from Kansas set off chants of "U.S.A! U.S.A!" when he called the toppled Iraqi dictator a "gangster."

"For decades, Saddam Hussein made Iraq a living hell," Dole said. "Well, we don't know if he's living, but we know he's got a place reserved in Hell."