April 9, 2003

Pro-Troops Rally Set for Ground Zero


Staff Reporter of the Sun

Even as anti-war protests proliferate around the city, a union representing construction workers has plans to stage a massive rally tomorrow in support of American troops overseas.

Governor Pataki will join leaders from business, government, and labor in addressing tens of thousands of demonstrators expected to gather on West Street near the World Trade Center, according to the chief of staff of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Paul Fernandes.

"We are prepared to accommodate 50,000 or more," Mr. Fernandes said.

"The building and construction trades thought it was time…to say to the troops and their families that there are a lot of people behind you," he said.

After watching the arrest of antiwar protesters almost every day on television, Mr. Fernandes said he hoped the pro-troops demonstration would show servicemen and servicewomen that not everyone in New York City opposes the war.

Fliers for the demonstration did not mention the war in Iraq but instead promised that the rally would support American troops "in the Middle East and other countries throughout the world."

Asked why his union chose the World Trade Center site for a demonstration in support of American troops abroad, Mr. Fernandes said, "That’s where it all began."

Ground zero is sacred not only to police and firefighters, but also to Mr. Fernandes’ union, which lost 61 members on September 11, 2001.

Even today, members of the Building and Construction Trades Council are hard at work at the World Trade Center site, preparing the underground transit hub for subways and PATH trains. The demonstration will start at noon and continue until 2 p.m. Speakers will address the crowd between 12:20 and 1:30, Mr. Fernandes said. Spectators will stand on the southbound lanes of West Street between Liberty Street and Canal Street; anyone wishing to support the troops should show up in red, white, and blue and enter West Street via Chambers Street or Canal Street, Mr. Fernandes said. Police may open other side streets, but the main entrances and exits for spectators will be at Chambers Street and Canal Street, he said.

The First Police Precinct yesterday warned businesses in the area — including those inside the World Financial Center — that the demonstration could disrupt traffic in Lower Manhattan. Commuters should expect delays at the West Side Highway and Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

Mayor Bloomberg has not said if he would attend, Mr. Fernandes said. A spokesman for the mayor did not immediately return telephone calls yesterday.

The union leader declined to list the other speakers at tomorrow’s rally, but he said the list would include the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch.

The speakers will address the crowd from a platform immediately adjacent to the World Trade Center site on West Street.

Mr. Fernandes promised a turnout in the tens of thousands and added that police were preparing for 50,000 people or more.

"I think they want to be on the safe side in terms of crowd control," Mr.Fernandes said.