Publisher thanks cops for not beating him during Giuliani incident, but files complaint
Brooklyn reporter booted after asking about 'foreknowledge' of 9/11
When GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani stopped off for a little retail politicking at a Colorado coffee house last Saturday, he came prepared to hammer home his commitment to the war on terror, make a jab or two at Hillary Clinton, and field some tough questions about recently indicted pal Bernard Kerik -- but he apparently wasn't ready for Sander Hicks.
Hicks, a Brooklyn-based journalist, publisher and all-around multimedia maverick, is also a self-described member of the "9/11 Truth" movement, a group convinced that official explanations do not fully account for the Sept. 11 tragedies. As Giuliani shook hands and signed autographs outside of Loveland, Colorado's Loveland Coffee Company, Hicks was waiting with a question.
"Mr. Giuliani, six years ago you told Peter Jennings that 'we were told that the World Trade Center was going to collapse,'" Hicks said, quoting a remark from the former New York City mayor made during an interview with ABC News. "Where did you get your foreknowledge that the World Trade Center was going to collapse?"
A laughing Giuliani quickly brushed past Hicks according to a video recording of the campaign stop, ignoring the question as he continued to work his way around an informal circle of supporters and press. But Hicks was not ignored by the Loveland Police Department. Two officers immediately took hold of his arms and hauled him into an adjacent parking lot.
"The police were aggressive," Hicks said in an interview with RAW STORY. "There's no need for that. I was there as a professional reporter."
After being led away by officers in what he describes as a "submission hold," Hicks identified himself to authorities and said he was just trying to ask Giuliani a question.
"I'm a member of the media. I'm a publisher and editor-in-chief of the New York Megaphone," he told police, citing a newspaper he runs which claims a readership of more than 60,000. "I'm the only New York reporter here."
After denying officers' assertions that he had pushed people in the crowd, he told authorities that they were violating his right to speak. "What you did was illegal," Hicks said. "What what you did was a violation of my fucking Bill of Rights."
"I was emotional," he told RAW STORY. "My mom was just telling me, 'next time don't cuss.'" Although Hicks was not arrested, officers said he was on private property and ordered him to leave.
"I should not have been grabbed," the journalist said by phone. "We need more reporters to ask these questions. We need more citizens to ask the questions."
Hicks is no new-comer to political controversy. He was the subject of the 2002 documentary film Horns and Halos, which focused on his successful efforts to republish author James Hatfield's unauthorized biography of President Bush, Fortunate Son. The New York Times bestselling book, which included allegations that Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972, was recalled by its original publisher after it was revealed that Hatfield was a paroled felon. Hicks later returned the biography to bookstore shelves through his own boutique publishing house, Soft Skull Press.
'Why don't you let go of my hand'
Hicks' question for Giuliani had referred to an interview with ABC's then-anchor Peter Jennings, conducted only hours after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, in which the mayor remarked that he and other top city officials had been warned on that the trade center towers were going to come down.
"I went down to the scene and we set up headquarters at 75 Barclay Street, which was right there with the police commissioner, the fire commissioner, the head of emergency management, and we were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was going to collapse," Giuliani said in the interview. "And it did collapse before we could actually get out of the building, so we were trapped in the building for 10, 15 minutes, and finally found an exit and got out, walked north, and took a lot of people with us."
Critics of 9/11 conspiracy theories say Giuliani was in fact warned -- but only at the last minute.
"Hicks appears to be trying to resuscitate the claim that Rudy knew the Towers were going to collapse in advance," states an entry at the blog Screw Loose Change, a site which claims to debunk "myths" about Sept. 11. "EMS Battalion Chief John Peruggia was warned by a NYC building engineer at 9:58 AM that the North Tower was in imminent danger of collapse. Presumably either Peruggia or the building engineer proceeded to warn the Mayor. Unfortunately Giuliani has compounded the problem by denying that he had any advance knowledge, perhaps because the kooks generally frame it that he had plenty of warning..."
Hicks had made a a previous attempt to ask about the Jennings interview earlier in the campaign stop, soon after Giuliani arrived on the scene.
"Rudy, hi, I'm Sander from the New York Megaphone," he started, shaking the candidate's hand. "On 9/11, when you said -- " But Giuliani cut him off, saying sharply, "Why don't you let go of my hand?" The exchange was captured on tape by a local Colorado Fox affiliate.
But the candidate was confronted with more 9/11 Truth members once he made his way inside the coffee shop.
"Mayor Giuliani, why'd you have thousands of tons of steel melted down and shipped off to Asia," yelled one activist before being shouted down with chants of "Rudy, Rudy" from the crowd. That individual was also asked to leave by police.
"Hey Rudy, the American people are waking up to the fact that you're a criminal," said another Truther. "You're a criminal, Rudy, you're a fake conservative..." The protesters were affiliated with two 9/11 Truth organizations, We Are Change Colorado and TruthAlliance.
Giuliani: 'The conspiracy theorists are all over'
After leaving the coffee shop -- and moments before Hicks would be whisked away by police -- Giuliani made some brief comments about the disturbance.
"It's part of America," he told reporters. "You learn when you are mayor of New York City that people have all kinds of different opinions, all kinds of different views...the conspiracy theorists are all over, they are protesting all over the place...it's very sad, it's not true. But you're not going to convince them that it's not true."
Although Hicks says he is loosely allied with We Are Change Colorado -- and was in Colorado to speak at one of the group's events -- he is careful to distance himself from tactics he refers to as "heckling."
"I was not a heckler and I did not raise my voice," he told RAW STORY. "I did not scream my question." He even has some measured praise for Loveland police.
"The cops did a good job of defusing the situation in the sense that they were professional, they were level headed. I appreciate the fact that I was not booked, that I was not cuffed, that I was not beaten," said Hicks."But I shouldn't have to say this. Of course I shouldn't have been beaten."
He hastens to add that the police, in his opinion, "were making a political choice that was not their job to make." Even if his opinions about Giuliani and Sept. 11 are incorrect, Hicks said, he still had a right to air them.
"This is the main message: the First Amendment allows me to be wrong," said Hicks. "Let's assume that my line of thinking is completely erroneous...that is for the even playing field of free discourse to figure out. We're supposed to have free speech so that truth and error can both come out."
Hicks has filed a complaint with the Loveland Police Department, a copy of which is available at his blog. "No matter what you believe, Loveland Police should be protecting citizens' First Amendment rights, which include our right to ask questions," he writes. "The First Amendment should be counted on to help get the USA back on track, through open dialogue."
The following video incorporates footage shot by 9/11 Truth groups and news reports from local Colorado affiliates.