NEW YORK -- Thousands of people from across the U.S. assembled in New York City on Sunday to voice their opposition to a proposed mosque planned to be built near Ground Zero.
Although not legally binding, the plan for the construction of the mosque was approved overwhelmingly by a New York City community board in May. Protestors were still hopeful that the public outcry would change hearts and minds and ultimately keep the mosque from being built.
Protestors: Imam 'No Man of Peace'
More than 5,000 people from all over the United States gathered in the Big Apple to protest the building of a 13-story mega-mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.
Organizers say the man behind the mosque - Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf - is not the man of peace he claims to be.
"He says he advocates for tolerance, but in his book he advocates for Sharia law which is radically intolerant," said Pamela Gellar, who leads the organization Stop Islamization of America. "We have no idea where the funding is coming from. We know his father built an Islamic Center on 96th street and was funded by 49 Muslim countries. Who's funding this $50 million monster? We want to know."
Several members of families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, were among the protestors. They displayed photos of their family members who died. They said building a mosque so close to their loved ones graves is an insult.
"This is my only son," said Eileen Tallon, who lost her son in the attack. "He was a firefighter and he went into rescue people that day. I'm upset about the building of the mosque, because Muslim terrorists murdered my son and 3,000 Americans at this site."
"Such was the violence on 9-11 that my brother's remains were never found," said Christina Regenhard said. "He was killed by Islamist and now they want to build a mosque on his grave. Their victory will be complete."
"The leader of the mosque is a 'bad guy' as we say in New York," the slain man's father, Albert Regenhard, added. "His father was a member of Muslim Brotherhood. These are the groups that include Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda."
Immigrants Join Protest
Many of the protestors were immigrants, including Russian Jews, Arab Christians and Indians who love American freedoms and who fear the growing Islamization of America is slowly eroding that liberty.
"We are very happy. America has given us freedom of religion, but we do not want to destroy this country! Islam wants to destroy this country that's the big difference between them and us," said Narain Kataia, an Indian American.
The proposed mosque is slated to be built in the old Burlington Coat Factory building, just 600 feet from where the towers fell. Mosque supporters say their hope is to bring something good out of 9-11.
But for people like Lee Henson - who lost his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter that day - a mosque near Ground Zero is unacceptable.
"They were on United Airlines Flight 175," Henson said. "My son called, he said, 'Don't worry Dad - it'll be quick.' I heard 'Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God' - then I looked at the TV screen and saw the plane hit the tower."