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Rally Against Holder/KSM in NYC: "The Beginning of a National Campaign"

4:40 PM, Dec 5, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Despite near freezing temperatures and steady rain, a spirited crowd of 9/11 families, first responders, and their supporters rallied this afternoon outside a federal courthouse in Manhattan to protest Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 conspirators the right to a civilian trial in that very court. Interspersed among the sea of umbrellas at the rally were American flags and homemade signs: "Give Us Liberty, Give Them Death," read one. "Treating Terrorism As A Street Crime Is What Brought Us 9/11 In The First Place," said another. One took direct aim at the attorney general: "Eric Holder=Disgraceful and Despicable," and "2,921 Souls Shout: Can You Hear Us Now?"

Speakers and attendees argued that by giving enemy combatants a trial in a civilian court -- rather than a military tribunal -- Holder has needlessly put lives at risk. The decision will restrict what evidence may be used against the terrorists, could reveal intelligence secrets, and sets back the clock to September 10. "[Terrorists] declared war on us 15 years ago," said Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the "Blind Sheikh" following the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. "When they declared war on us, they were using bombs, and we answered with subpoenas. They attacked, and we indicted."

"In war times the rule of law for terrorists and enemies is war crimes trials or military commissions," said McCarthy. "It is not to wrap our enemies in our Bill of Rights. It's not to bring them to the majesty of the American courthouse and clothe them in all the rights of the Americans they're sworn to kill."

The rally, organized by the 9/11 Never Forget Coalition, featured speakers whose loved ones were killed on 9/11. Actor Brian Dennehy read a letter by Judea and Ruth Pearl, parents of the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by KSM in Pakistan. "We, who witnessed the darkest side of hell, and have since spent every moment of our lives studying the anatomy of terror," the Pearls wrote, "we refuse to accept the strategy of normalization that Holder's decision represents."

Peter Regan, a New York firefigher whose father (also a firefighter) was killed on 9/11, took issue with Holder's contention that those opposed to his decision were motivated by fear. "Attorney General Eric Holder has said that you don't have to be afraid of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," said Regan, who served two tours in Iraq as a Marine. "Well, sir, I am not afraid of this terrorist or any other terrorist. As a Marine, I have seen them on the battlefield and I will verify that they are afraid of us." The terrorists had committed an "act of war" and ought to be treated that way, Regan said.

Debra Burlingame, the sister of American Airlines flight 77 co-pilot Charles "Chic" Burlingame, warned the trials would serve as a platform from which the terrorists will preach jihad. Holder wants to give 9/11 plots "a stage in that federal court house," she said. "We're here to say, that is not going to happen."

"We are not here today ... to complain and lament what happened eight years ago. We're here to prevent it from happening again," Burlingame said. "It took [the terrorists] six minutes to kill my brother and his co-pilot. Six minutes is a long time in a closed cockpit -- a very long time. I am not the sister of a victim -- I am the sister of a fighter."

Burlingame, a board member of Keep America Safe, said she has only begun to fight against Holder's recent decision. "This is the beginning of a national campaign," she said. "We are going to go out into the districts of every member of congress who is hiding behind their desk. And we are going to out them. We are going to come after you."

According to the AP, "several hundred" people turned out at the rally, but it seemed to me there were at least 1,500 people there -- a good turnout considering the weather. One person in attendance, Dave Redman, a 23 year-old volunteer firefighter from Mineola, New York, said when he told his friends about the rally some hadn't yet heard about Holder's decision. Redman says he came out today because it's unconscionable to put the city through the "psychological suffering" of the trial. "Thank God these people weren't in charge when we captured KSM," he said. "Would they have interrogated him or read him his rights?"

"I was absolutely horrified when I heard of Holder's decision," said rally-goer Liz Iacono. Her friend Toni Russo, who lost her restaurant and apartment near the World Trade Center, summed up the sentiment of those in attendance: "Holder should resign."