It’s a whopper. It’s ridiculous. It’s been fact-checked. It’s Islamophobic. The mayor said it never happened.
“Trump is plain wrong, and he is shamefully politicizing an emotionally charged issue,” Jersey City Mayor Fulop said in a statement released yesterday morning. “No one in Jersey City cheered on September 11.”
“When I saw they were happy, I was pissed,” said Ron Knight, 56, a Tonnele Avenue resident who said he heard cries of “Allahu Akbar” as he shouldered his way through a crowd of 15 to 20 people on John F. Kennedy Boulevard that morning.
Collectively, the gatherings amounted to dozens of people at the two locations, the witnesses said. Callers also flooded the 911 system with accounts of jubilant Muslims on a rooftop at a third location, three police officers said, but a reporter was unable to find witnesses there 14 years later.
A retired police captain, Peter Gallagher, said he cleared a rooftop celebration of 20 to 30 people at 6 Tonnele Ave., a four-story apartment building with an unobstructed view of Lower Manhattan, in the hours after the second tower fell.
“Some men were dancing, some held kids on their shoulders,” said Gallagher, then a sergeant. “The women were shouting in Arabic and keening in the high-pitched wail of Arabic fashion. They were told to go back to their apartments since a crowd of non-Muslims was gathering on the sidewalk below and we feared for their safety.”
FBI agents took several residents of the building into custody days later, according to neighbors and an account in The Star-Ledger. It is unclear why they were detained.
Knight was one of two Tonnele Avenue residents who said they witnessed a crowd celebrating on John F. Kennedy Boulevard not far from Masjid Al-Salam, the mosque where Omar Abdel-Rahman, known as the “blind sheikh,” preached before the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Carlos Ferran, 60, who lives in the same building as Knight, said he was on his way to a liquor store to buy beer when he came across the gathering on the sidewalk.
“Some of them had their hands in the air,” Ferran said. “They were happy.”
Three additional officers who remain on the Jersey City force said they witnessed small groups of Muslim celebrants on Sept. 11, but they would not speak for attribution, citing a department policy that prohibits media interviews.
The officers, including a high-ranking official, said their reluctance to speak publicly also stemmed from concern they would run afoul of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who has repeatedly said celebrations did not take place.
“I saw it with my own eyes,” the ranking officer said. “In the end, police officers are professionals, so we just observed that stuff and sucked it up.”
Eleven other officers claimed to have been witnesses to celebrations in postings on Facebook after Trump resurrected the issue, but they either declined to speak for attribution or did not return calls seeking comment.
The report attempts to minimize this, but we’ve gone from “none” to “multiple incidents”. And these are the ones that can be gathered from police officers who will talk despite the intimidation. How many smaller celebrations were there that didn’t lead to so many 9⁄11 calls that the police had to intervene to protect the Muslim celebrants from angry Americans?
Those records that survived will likely be purged. Witnesses will die. And history will be rewritten. That’s the goal here. It never happened. And if you remember it happened, you’re an Islamophobe.
On the morning of Sept. 11, Knight said, he had been working at a printing company in Lower Manhattan when the first plane struck. The second plane hit as he raced to the Christopher Street PATH station, he said, adding that he believes he caught the last train out before service was suspended.
He said he remembers the celebratory gathering on John F. Kennedy Boulevard vividly because the group’s delight was so jarringly out of context with the grim expressions worn by everyone else, including other Muslims, he saw that day.
“I think about that day all the time,” Knight said. “It stays with you.”