The proposed mosque near ground zero drew hundreds of fever-pitch demonstrators Sunday, with opponents carrying signs associating Islam with blood, supporters shouting, "Say no to racist fear!" and American flags waving on both sides.
The two leaders of the construction project, meanwhile, defended their plans, though one suggested that organizers might eventually be willing to discuss an alternative site. The other, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, said during a Middle East trip that the attention generated by the project is actually positive and that he hopes it will bring greater understanding.
Around the corner from the cordoned-off old building that is to become a 13-story Islamic community center and mosque, police separated the two groups of demonstrators. There were no reports of physical clashes but there were some nose-to-nose confrontations, including a man and a woman screaming at each other across a barricade under a steady rain.
Opponents of the $100 million project two blocks from the World Trade Center site appeared to outnumber supporters. Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" blared over loudspeakers as mosque opponents chanted, "No mosque, no way!"
Signs hoisted by dozens of protesters standing behind police barricades read "SHARIA" - using dripping, blood-red letters to describe Islam's Shariah law, which governs the behavior of Muslims.