The date was September 10, 2011, a day before the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Times Square was filled with people enjoying the warm summer day, many gathered in anticipation of the upcoming anniversary events. Into that crowd waded a tall man with a gray handlebar mustache and a white tee-shirt that read “Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Islam I learned On 9/11.” Reverend Terry Jones, the incendiary right-wing Florida preacher infamous for his globally-felt Koran burning and his promotion of the anti-Islamic film connected to the Benghazi attack. That Terry Jones.
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films happened to be in the crowd as well and they turned on their camera to capture what happened next, edited later into the short film they posted online this week.
The two filmmakers – creative innovators best known for their Oscar-nominated documentary, Jesus Camp, and other fine documentary work – were in Times Square to catch street footage for their Op-Doc project Scenes: The Public Square. As Jones looked for position and took his stand, accompanied by a retinue of similarly attired men with their own cameras, Ewing and Grady filmed both Jones and the crowd surrounding him. He looked out and in a loud voice began speaking, his words focused specifically on Islam [quoted items are transcribed from the video below]:
“It’s a religion of bondage. It’s a religion of lies and deception. And it is a religion that promotes violence. That is the true nature of Islam.”
As a young Muslim mother with her two small children quietly slipped from the crowd and other observers shook their heads; one young woman called out to Jones:
“No, it’s not…it’s really not.”
Ewing and Grady’s camera swirled around to catch reactions; an incredulous older black man said to his companion:
“That’s the cat that wanted to burn the Koran…I know you heard about him…that nut. How you going run around talk about you preachin’ God and all of that and you say you wanna burn a holy book of God?”
As Jones continued his diatribe, the filmmakers scanned from face to face: some shaking their heads, others mouthing words of disagreement, a few turning away in disgust. Suddenly we see a young man stand up and call out to Jones, “all you need is love.” Loud, strong, with a clear invitation to the crowd to join in.
And join in they did.
As Jones attempted to continue his speech, lost now in the growing din, countless bystanders stood, sat, walked, rode their bikes; all singing together the unforgettable words of the Beatles classic:
“All you need is love…all you need is love…all you need is love, love. Love is all you need.”
And Jones was finally silenced. As he stood in confusion, and just before the camera faded, we see a man hold up a sign with an arrow pointing to Jones that said, simply, “Idiot.”
Crowd + Beatles vs. bigotry. Score one for the good guys.