Last night Geert Wilders spoke at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC — the site of CPAC. Pamela Geller organized a gala event that was sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Atlas Shrugs, and Jihad Watch. Here via Pamela is a firsthand account of what happened from a reader of Atlas Shrugs and Jihad Watch, who was there:
The $25 Banana—priceless! If given the chance to fly back in time to hear Patrick Henry deliver his “liberty or death” speech, I probably would. No, I’m sure I would. In a very real sense, that’s why I left Danville and drove almost six hours (and almost another six on the way back immediately after) to hear a man from the Netherlands named Geert Wilders.
Friday morning, after almost five hours of class time with my Humanities students, I left for Washington, D.C. to see Wilders, a modern day Henry. Of course, there was a problem I couldn’t ignore. I knew that Wilder’s speech to the crowd attending what had been billed as AN EVENING WITH GEERT WILDERS: FITNA, FREEDOM, FOOD ………….. FIERCE! at D.C.’s Omni Shoreham Hotel would be as short as it would be inspirational. In other words, I knew that I had to be at the site within minutes of the time the event was to begin at 6:00 p.m.
Armed only with mapquest directions, I sped up US 29 North to I-66 East where I eventually exited into the maze of Washington. Thanks to directions from a man who was walking across the Francis Scott Key Bridge, I found 1900 Calvert Street and turned into an area where Omni valets parked visitors’ cars.
Immediately I was told that their lot was full, that I would have to try the Marriott lot a few blocks away. There was no time to complain; it was after six. I hurried into traffic, and drove past the Marriott sign that said “TEMPORARILY FULL” then headed up Calvert. For a block and a half, there was nothing. As I neared a stop light, I looked into my rearview mirror and noticed that someone was leaving a curbside spot just behind me. Carefully, but quickly, I reversed, then took that spot.
I speedily walked to the Omni entrance, found the concierge, then headed down the corridor to the left that led to a right turn down a few stairs. There I saw the “Evening With Geert Wilders” sign. But the doors were closed, and a tall and very serious security guard told me that no one else could enter due to the excessive crowd and fire code restrictions.
“But I’ve driven six hours,” I pleaded, too weary to be more defiant.
“Sorry,” he said, “those are the rules.”
I didn’t move since I was next in line if someone left. But why would they? It was almost 6:30 and Wilders was sure to speak any moment. What made me so intent on coming caused me to stay put. If Wilders was brave enough to produce FITNA, a very short and controversial film that discussed the brutal tenets of Islam, and courageous enough to demand Islamic accountability for its violence and its supremacist ideology, I could at least be close.
Behind me there were others who had apparently made the same commitment. They weren’t leaving either. None of us became unruly or upset. We looked at each other as if to say we were happy to have gotten this close. I shrugged just as the door opened to within a foot of where I stood. A man with wire rim glasses and a short sandy colored beard asked who I was.
“I’ve driven here from southern Virginia,” I said, “and Robert Spencer and I…”
He stopped me. “Come on in.” He waved to the others also.
Inside was standing room only. On a small platform at the other end of the room in front of the microphone was Pamela Geller, dressed in black, the bright and attractive outspoken American Jewess who produces the prize winning blog, Atlas Shrugs. Touting the work that Wilders had done regarding the defense of free speech, she commented on the size of the audience who had come to express their support. Just behind her were…Robert Spencer, author of the best selling book, The Truth About Muhammad and many others. Geller thanked both of them, who, along with the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Atlas Shrugs, sponsored the event.
After rousing the crowd to repeated cheers, Geller introduced…Robert Spencer.
Spencer held a thick reference book, an impeccable Islamic source regarding the true intent of sura 8, verse 60 and sura 47, verse 4 of the Koran. Both dealt with Muhammad’s dictate to murder infidels, unbelievers in Islam. Both were discussed in FITNA. Spencer explained that a rational discussion of such suras, even using or relying on Islamic texts, was regarded as hate speech. When Spencer referred to handouts given the crowd by Muslims in opposition to the event, he read Muslim claims that references to the Koran in the movie FITNA were taken out of context. That’s when Spencer opened the reference book and read from it.
Then he introduced Wilders who took the stage during our thunderous applause. Geller, more than a foot shorter than Wilders, was beaming as both stood at the podium. Then Geller walked away.
“Free speech is no longer a given,” he said, reflecting on charges filed against him in the Netherlands, where he and his family live. “I will be prosecuted because of my film FITNA.”
He described his full time protection from Muslims, how he moves from one safe house to another, how he occasionally sleeps in prison cells. He asked why free speech was being put behind bars.
“Cultural relativism is the biggest disease of Europe today.” He claimed that the European left was attacking cultural values rooted in Christianity and Judaism in a vain attempt to please Muslims. Gravely, Wilders said “Their population is growing ten times faster than our local populations.”
He mentioned the need for the Europeans to adopt a freedom of speech law that would allow criticism of any and all ideologies. Quoting George Orwell, Wilders said that freedom was the ability to tell people what they didn’t want to hear.
When the applause that followed ebbed, he looked around the room and said, stoically, “Freedom must prevail! Freedom will prevail!”
Cheers accompanied him off the stage as FITNA began.
I saw Geller and Spencer head for the exit. Earlier I had introduced myself to them both when I ignored the security guard behind me who was warning me not to. Both recognized my name from the many messages I had sent to each of them. Geller gave me a hug. Now that they were leaving, I stopped Geller to hand her a $25 check I had written for the Wilders Legal Defense Fund.
“It’s just a small donation,” I said.
“No, it’s a big one,” she replied, as she gave me an even bigger hug, one I will never forget.
All eyes were turned to the hanging screen that was as wide as the small stage. FITNA had begun. I worked my way to the rear door. I had seen FITNA before because I had shown it many times to my classes, and would show it many more. As I reached the exit, I turned in time to see the opening image of a plane sailing into the World Trade Center.
“Bastards!” I heard a woman seethe who an arm’s length away. “Yeah,” I thought, acknowledging the reason that I had come. Like Wilders I knew that our freedoms were worth fighting for.
Once out the door, I patted the pocket inside my sport coat. I had taken a banana from one of the food tables for my ride home. Amused by the thought that some would say I had paid twenty five bucks for the banana, I told myself that I wished I could have given more.
B. Koplen 2/28/09
And here is another account by Judy at the superb Refugee Resettlement Watch site.