Volume 76, Number 45 | April 4 - 10, 2007

300 true believers get their 9/11 ‘truth’ from BAI host at St. Mark’s

By Mary Reinholz

April Fools’ Day fell this spring on Palm Sunday and it was a solemn occasion at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery. There, after Sunday services, some 300 apparent true believers packed the sanctuary in the early afternoon and heard politically charged conspiracy theories surrounding the fall of the World Trade Center five-and-a-half years ago. 

Ralph Schoenman, the militant left-wing co-host of WBAI radio’s “Taking Aim” program, was the draw for the varied crowd of aging beatniks, East Village couples and singletons and assorted punk anarchists and antiwar activists in black T-shirts. They paid $8 apiece to be told that the tragic events of that day represented an “inside job” and “terror at the top” of the U.S. government.

Schoenman, who once worked for the late Lord Bertrand Russell and with him founded a “Who killed Kennedy?” committee in 1963 after J.F.K.’s assassination, also suggested there had been advance planning before the “steel structures” melted and “pancaked down in seconds.” In addition, he claimed the B.B.C. reported on the collapse of the 7 World Trade Center building before the event transpired. An elderly woman attending the event with her husband kept nodding and murmuring “That’s right!” during much of Schoenman’s remarks, which were interrupted at times with applause.

The event was sponsored by the New York Truth in 9/11 movement, which meets regularly at St. Mark’s. Schoenman received a standing ovation before he took the mic to contend that a “criminal oligarchy” was behind 9/11 and subsequent terror attacks in London and Madrid. The purpose of the attacks, he said, was to create a “culture of terror” to justify suppression of civil liberties and the rise of “security entrepreneurs” and others seeking enrichment in the Middle East.

“Brothers and sisters, this is class warfare,” said the Brooklyn-born radical, who graduated from London’s School of Economics with a master’s degree and became a globe-trotting leader for the Bertrand Russell Peace Commission.

He was introduced by Downtown radical lawyer Lynne Stewart, out on bail while appealing a 2005 conviction for aiding a violent Islamic group on behalf of her convicted terrorist client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind and diabetic Egyptian cleric. She embraced Schoenman and referred to him in biblical terms as “Our Jeremiah.” He, in turn, said Stewart was among the government targets “who spoke the truth about 9/11 and then were deprived” of their liberty.

Father Frank Morales, an associate pastor at St. Mark’s, also spoke briefly before Schoenman addressed the crowd, noting that on Palm Sunday “Jesus rode into town and went to the temple” in Jerusalem, “which was occupied by Rome.” He likened the money-changing system that Jesus sought to clean up to a “corporate” enterprise. Morales is a major figure in the New York 9/11 truth movement. He called Schoenman a “revolutionary and intellectual of the first order.”

Schoenman tried to sum up recent developments relevant in his view to the direction of the war on terror. Recently, he said, the mainstream press paid little attention to the appearance of Zbigniew Brzezinski — former President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser — before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February; Brzezinski delivered a scathing attack on the war in Iraq as one of choice and suggested there might be another terror attack in the U.S. that could lead to war in Iran. Schoenman seemed to predict that the Bush administration would stage such an attack and use it as “another pretext for an invasion.”

He also ridiculed as fiction the recent confessions of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and the claims he wielded the knife that beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, noting Pearl’s family also doubted the scenario.

“Apparently [Khalid] also organized the [assassination] of Julius Caesar and had a hand in the crucifixion” of Jesus, Schoenman said sarcastically.

The goateed pooh-bah of the left was still talking when a reporter left after an hour, accompanied by one of the black-clad male activists for Truth in 9/11. The activist agreed that some of Schoenman’s theories about the swift meltdown of the twin towers were similar to those of Rosie O’Donnell on her Internet home page.

“We have to be careful when these mainstream people support the movement,” he said of the outspoken celeb. “That could lead to our being ridiculed.”

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