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9/11 “Truthers” to Tone Protests Down, for a Day

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By Corey Kilgannon
September 9, 2011
City Room Blog at NewYorkTimes/Region

cityroom truthers1 blog480

Photo credit: Benjamin Norman for The New York Times. A meeting of people at a cafe in Greenwich Village on Thursday night of people who have alternate views of what happened
on 9/11.

“No bullhorning during the memorial.”

That’s always been the rule of thumb among “truther” demonstrators
at ground zero on Sept. 11, out of respect for relatives of victims of the terror
attack, said Mike Skuthan, 32, a Web designer from Long Island who attends the
demonstrations every year.

But after this Sunday’s memorial, Mr. Skuthan said, the bullhorns and
signs will again be brought out and the groups will walk from one location to
another in Manhattan chanting their message and engaging passers-by to help
them call for a new investigation into the attacks.

“You have the usual chants — ’9-11 Truth Ends Wars,’
or ‘Two planes, three buildings,’ ” Mr. Skuthan said. “The
popular one this year will probably be, ‘Ten years, no justice.’

Members of the so-called 9-11 Truth movement range from extreme conspiracy
theorists who believe that the Bush administration engineered the attacks to
consolidate power, roll back civil liberties and help oil mogul friends. But
then there are more moderate factions that simply insist that top government
officials know more about the attacks than they have acknowledged, and then
used then used the attacks as a pretext for invading Iraq. A large percentage
of activists outline — often in great detail — what they call inconsistencies
in government explanations of the attacks, which many call a governmental cover-up.

There are scores of somber memorial events on Sunday commemorating the 10th
anniversary of the 2001 attacks — poignant prayer services, candlelight
vigils and, of course, the official commemoration at ground zero.

But for conspiracy theorists, the day’s poignancy is mixed with a renewed
urgency to their demand for answers, and to dispute official explanations of
the attacks. The slew of events leading up to Sunday include screenings of sept.
11-conspiracy films, and widespread “street action” protests. There
are discussions by the leading proponents of so-called 9/11-truth theories,
and even a spiritual service led by religious leaders who believe the public
has not been told the whole truth about the attacks.

Because this is the 10th anniversary, and it falls on a weekend, “truthers”
are hoping to get their highest turnout ever for demonstrations, said Mr. Skuthan,
who pitched in this year by making a popular Web site for “truther”
events
this weekend, including the locations of numerous “street actions.”

The demonstrations may be more subdued this year, said Luke Rudkowski, 25,
a journalist from Brooklyn.

Mr. Rudkowski is no shrinking violet. Armed with a video camera and a YouTube
account, he has confronted the likes of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.;
Larry A. Silverstein, the leaseholder on the Trade Center; and Thomas H. Kean,
a former governor of New Jersey who was chairman of the federal Sept. 11 commission.

In 2009, Mr. Rudkowski was arrested while attempting to question Mayor Michael
R. Bloomberg about the lack of health care for emergency responders.

But when Mr. Rudkowski gathers with other activists at ground zero on Sunday
morning near the official, private memorial service, he says, he will be in
nonconfrontational mode.

Other activists agreed that Sunday calls for a subdued approach.

“We are not going to be talking about the politics of what our organization
believes,” said the Rev. Ian Alterman, an evangelical minister from Manhattan
and a member of Religious Leaders for 9/11 Truth, which is holding a special
memorial service on Saturday at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village.
Mr. Alterman said his group believed that there were still many unanswered questions
about the attacks, and contradictory facts — and that spiritual leaders
were doing “a disservice to those who died if they do not do as almost
every faith traditions instructs, and seek the truth.”

The service on Saturday will include prayer, song and sermons, and would include
relatives of victims — but it will not include politics or speeches.

“It’s a respectful memorial event, about solace,” Mr. Alterman
said. “No matter what side of the politics you’re on, all of us
have feelings of grief, and seek closure. I’ve asked attendees who are
more politically minded not to interfere. I told them, ‘Talk to me on
the 12th, not on 11th. We’re focusing on people here, not politics.’

Among the listings on groundzero2011.com is a “Forgotten Heroes”
memorial service on Sunday near World Trade Center Building 7, a controversial
building to many in the Sept. 11 truth movement because of questions over how
and why it collapsed, in a rapid free-fall several hours after planes struck
the twin towers.

That service is dedicated to emergency responders who died from ailments incurred
during rescue and cleanup at ground zero after the attacks.

The groundzero2011.com site offers full services for people traveling to New
York City to participate in events. Aside from a ground zero vigil on Sunday
morning, there are listings for numerous “street actions” around
the city, including ones near the Federal Reserve, City Hall, the Stock Exchange,
Federal Hall and Police Plaza.

Richard Gage, an architect from California and the founder of Architects and
Engineers for 9/11 Truth
, will speak at several events on Sunday. Mr. Gage’s
group includes architectural and engineering professionals who believe that
the World Trade Center may have collapsed because of explosives planted in the
buildings, and are calling for a new investigation.

Mr. Gage said that as the 10-year commemoration approaches, “The media
has its attention back on 9/11.”

“So it’s an important time to be disseminating the information
and exposing the evidence,” he added. “This anniversary gives us
a unique opportunity to be seen and heard.”