A Ride, and a Comedy, to RememberJune 10, 2023
Apr 2014, updated Dec 2021
The summer of 2013 I was working in Washington DC when the Million Muslim March was taking place. My daughter was living in northern Virginia. Politically she leans further left than I (although less so since she started living on her own). I thought it would be a fun educational experience for us to meet up and observe the march.
The fun part would be getting together with my daughter which is always enjoyable. Based on past experience, the educational part would come from observing the march and later watching how the news reported the event. In the summer of 2010 I observed an event in New York City and later saw television news reports that barely resembled what I observed.
In August 2010 I participated in a 9/11 charity motorcycle ride. The purpose of the charity is to remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks and raise money, mainly to award scholarships to children of first responders, and secondarily to donate motorcycles to police departments, and make small donations to fire departments.
The 2010 ride started in Pennsylvania, stopped at the Shanksville crash site (Flight 93 National Memorial) and proceeded to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. The next day the ride completed at the New York City World Trade Center site (now rebuilt and includes the September 11 Memorial and Museum). By happenstance the charity ride ended an hour before and a block away from the pro & anti-mosque protest.
I had time, so I walked around and watched the pro and anti-mosque protests. The event was fairly calm. The two sides were separated by a city block plus a wide and highly trafficked street.
The anti-mosque people were corralled into a “free speech zone”, the police would usher anyone with signs (or those hanging around those with signs) into the corral and drag the low fences that boarded the zone out a bit as needed to fit the increasing number of demonstrators. At its largest, the zone was much smaller than the parking space required for two tractor trailer trucks with a trailer each. The pro-mosque demonstrators, a block away and across the road were milling around on the sidewalk. Besides a few loudspeakers at each site amplifying whatever its owner thought was important, the usual New York City noise, and a small army of police in the area / beside & around each group, well other than that, I would judge the whole affair calm.
Later that night, watching the news, I saw he TV cameras played the angles to make the protest appear massive and out of control. With the New York City protest in mind, I invited my daughter to go with me to look at the 2013 Million Muslim March which was taking place on the National Mall on September 11th.
We arrived at the National Mall and my daughter insisted we were in the wrong place because there were so few people in the area. To paint the picture – small stage on the field, the distinctive Cornel West and others on a stage, 30 or so people in front of the stage, a few bikers wearing veteran motorcycle club patches further back taking it all in, and all along the periphery of the mall, 40 or 50 people with giant crosses and Jesus saves signs.
The Million Muslim March, even before it started, mutated into a bunch of fringe topics so I should not have been surprised by the soon to come speeches. The first speaker, who I can only assume was an Army reservist, a sergeant (E5) in an unbuttoned class A uniform with sunglasses resting atop his head talked about the US killing innocents in the recent wars. Next up, 9/11 conspiracy people talking about how the US government used explosives to destroy the World Trade Center buildings. Next was someone talking about how evil Ronald Reagan was for escalating the Cold War. My daughter got upset when I said I didn’t know this was comedy show.
I walked over and talked to a few of the veteran bikers; I was dressed for work, business casual for an office environment. A news camera crew must have thought there was going to be trouble — they ran over to film me as soon as I started talking to the bikers. It was funny.
UPI estimated about 100 people attended the Million Muslim March (other estimates put attendance at a few dozen) and about 75,000 attended the 2 Million Bikers counter protest. The DC government turned down the biker’s permit request, so the bikers rode around the capital in small groups.
Educational experience? Maybe not, but it was good to see peaceful American protests in person.
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 The march organized by the American Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC) originally billed as the Million Muslim March was later rebilled as Million American March Against Fear (MAMAF)
 American’s 911 Foundation’s main fund raiser is a police escorted 400 mile motorcycle ride. There is always a strong contingent of police motorcyclists that participate (in uniform on police motorcycles). Overall 1,100 motorcycles participated in the 2010 ride. The 2011 ride doubled this number; the 2013 ride had over 5,000 riders. The “final” ride took place in 2016. While America would “Never Forget” 9/11, Maryland’s governor and State Police found that holding up traffic on a Friday to let a 1,000+ motorcycles access the Pentagon parking lot was more trouble than “Never Forget” needed. The ride resumed again in 2018 but is now limited to 600 participants.
 I recall that in August of 2010 construction on the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville PA had not yet started. From a parking lot we could observe a fenced in field containing the crash site and there was a make-shift memorial. The 9/11 Pentagon Memorial was complete. The New York World Trade Center site was under construction, surrounded by a fence with a few unobstructed areas where you could view ongoing work through the fence.