NBC News’ Kerry Sanders is covering the controversy around Rev. Terry Jones proposed Quran-burning in Gainesville, Fla., on the 9/11 anniversary. He interviewed Jones Wednesday and discussed the plan that President Barack Obama has condemned as “destructive.”
What the scene at the church? Is it all media? Or is there anyone else there?
This morning, I’d say about 90 percent of the people around the church were from the media. There was also a protest across the street from the church that some reporters were covering.
But, I don’t want to discount the fact that there have also been representatives from the community who have made their way here. This morning a representative from the World Evangelical Alliance tried to deliver a letter to Rev. Terry Jones which he said represents the beliefs of more than 430 million evangelicals around the world. The letter was urging Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center, to reconsider and not burn the Quran.
Their fear is that the evangelicals who go around the world and proselytize will be in danger. They fear that if they open a church in a country that is predominately Muslim, that the church may be targeted or that individuals may be singled out because they are Christian and could be injured or murdered.
So there is increasing levels of interest here, not just from those in U.S. military uniforms working in other parts of the world.
Have seen any supporters there?
There are a few church members who are here. If you are not sure who they are, you can recognize them pretty quickly because most of them are wearing side arms. They have pistols strapped to their waists. They are more inside the church then coming out. They are very nice. The doors of the church are all locked, but if you identify yourself, they will let you in to use their bathroom.
But they are not really speaking on behalf of the minister. Rather, they are just taking messages and shuttling them to him.
What about the followers of Pastor Jones? Have any of them come forward in favor, or not in favor, of the proposed Quran burning?
No. The only person who has come out speaking publicly about the pastor’s statement is the Associate Pastor, Wayne Sapp. He is in lock step with Jones and not saying anything different from him.
Have any extra security measures been taken?
Across the street from the church, the Gainesville police department has installed a security camera atop of a telephone poll. It’s a pretty rural area, but now they are monitoring all the activity around the church back at the police department. And the police department has now established a protocol for anyone coming and going from the church. Anyone who drives down the street to the church has to stop their car and give their drivers license to a police officer who writes down the information, as well as the car’s license plate.
They are just building a data base of everyone who comes and goes in the event that something bad happens they want to know who was here.
What is the reaction in the larger city of Gainesville?
What I find interesting is that Gainesville, Fla., is well known in the state for the University of Florida and its football team. It might even be known for that to the rest of the nation. But to the rest of the world, Gainesville, Fla. was not on anyone’s map until this.
The folks in this town are really upset that they are known around the world now for just one thing: A preacher who wants to burn the Quran.
You interviewed Pastor Jones yesterday, did you get any better sense of what his real goal is here? (Watch the full interview above)
At the end of the interview, I asked him whether he was getting his 15 minutes, and if there would be no reason for him to burn the Quran because he got his 15 minutes of fame?
He seemed to indicate to me that he was already starting to reconsider whether he was going to burn the Quran.
If this was an attempt at not just local, but international, publicity, he’s achieved that. I’m just not sure he’s fully recognized the lasting impact it may have around the world.