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911 stone movie prompts protester at rockville theater { August 10 2006 }

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Movie prompts protester at Rockville theater member believes government complicit in 2001 terrorist attacks depicted in 'World Trade Center'
Published on August 10, 2006

By Alexander C. Baldinger
News-Post Staff
ROCKVILLE -- On the busy promenade outside the Regal Rockville Town Center 13 cinema Wednesday, David Slesinger blended in well with workers taking a lunch break from the adjacent Montgomery County Circuit Court building.
As a crowd of men and women in business suits escaped work by eating lunch at an outdoor cafe, inspecting the produce at the farmers' market or tapping their feet to the zydeco band, Mr. Slesinger prepared to get to work himself.

A member of, a group that believes the federal government was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Slesinger's job was to get the message across to moviegoers who went to see Oliver Stone's new film, "World Trade Center," which opened Wednesday.

Just another day at the office for a part-time salesman who has spent much of his adult life engaging in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.

"As soon as I'm arrested, I will stop leafleting," Mr. Slesinger said. "It is not a physical challenge; it is a moral challenge."

Mr. Slesinger, of Rockville, was the lone representative of a group skeptical of government in a sea of municipal workers, but a recent poll by Scripps Howard/Ohio University shows public skepticism about the government's role.

One in three surveyed in the national poll of 1,010 adults said they suspect federal officials assisted in the terrorist attacks, or took no action to stop them, as a pretext for war in the Middle East.

"The point is that the government is lying, and people who come to this movie are hopefully likely concerned about the issue and more likely to be interested in doing further research," Mr. Slesinger said.

Passers-by who took the time to read the fliers Mr. Slesinger handed them remained skeptical.

"I think it's worthy of inquiry, but I don't think it's based in very much fact," said Carrie Murphy, a University of Maryland student who interns near the theater. "It just seems like ... any other kind of propaganda. I think it's important to have a debate and a discourse ... but I think it has to be taken with a grain of salt."

Few actually went to the movie Wednesday afternoon; 15 minutes before the Rockville premiere, only 14 tickets had been sold.

The film is of particular interest to Mr. Slesinger's group and other conspiracy theorists -- or activists, depending on one's point of view -- because it depicts the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, a 47-story tower that collapsed about 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 11, but received little coverage in the media because it was dwarfed by the destruction of its taller neighbors.

"Journalism has a black eye (for) missing some very, very crucial things like the collapse of Building 7," Mr. Slesinger said.

Unlike the Twin Towers, Building 7 was not hit by a plane. Yet it toppled in a similar manner -- all three buildings collapsed at free-fall speed into their own foundational footprint, leaving neat piles of rubble, according to several Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists.

"This is not physically possible unless all structural support is removed ahead of the collapse, as in a planned, controlled demolition," the group's flier states.

Mr. Slesinger said the oft-ignored incident is the key to understanding the real story behind the attacks.

"They'll never get by the evidence of the molten steel found in Building 7," Mr. Slesinger said. "Building 7 wasn't even hit by a plane, so how could the fire be hot enough to melt steel? They'll never explain Building 7. That's their weakest issue; that's our strongest issue."

Just who "they" are is a crucial part of Mr. Slesinger's message.

When asked who was responsible for allowing the attacks to happen, he rattled off the names of high-ranking government officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well as the Project for a New American Century, a neoconservative think tank of which both men were members at one point.

"We call ourselves specifically because we want to give everybody courage," he said. "We want to give courage to the people who are afraid to look at the issue because they can't face the possibility that the president could be guilty of treason."

Mr. Slesinger, 55, has engaged in civil disobedience more than 20 times, he said. He served four months in jail in 1982 after an arrest for trespassing as he protested a nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.

Perhaps part of the reason he actually served time is because of his affinity for the politics of Mahatma Gandhi.

At his sentencing, he said he told the judge, "If you believe in what you're doing, give me the stiffest sentence you can. If you don't believe in what you're doing, resign."

The judge decided to keep his job.

C.T. Lawrence Butler of Takoma Park was at the movie theater to support Mr. Slesinger.

"I've known him for 25 years, so I know he's very dedicated to Gandhi and nonviolence, so that's what he's practicing here today," he said. "There's a lot of unanswered questions about 9/11 that the American public has a right to know, and I think far too many people are willing to accept the official story without asking the hard questions."

He watched as Mr. Slesinger handed out fliers to the slow trickle of people that passed by the theater's entrance. The farmers' market and zydeco music were long gone by the time the premiere let out, leaving only scattered midday pedestrians to target with leaflets and "Deception Dollars," small fliers covered in anti-establishment slogans that resemble actual dollars but are worth considerably less.

"In the nine months preceding 9/11/01, the (United States Air Force) followed procedure by intercepting 67 airplanes in a row. Are we to believe they failed the next four times in a row over a period of almost two hours?" the fliers ask.

Yes, Mr. Slesinger said, because the Air Force was engaged in war games designed to divert attention from the actual hijackings.

Despite his opinions, Mr. Slesinger doesn't view himself as a conspiracy theorist.

"The official story, the story that 19 foreigners with little cutters, directed by a man in a cave in Afghanistan, were able to outwit the U.S. military and the U.S. government -- that is a conspiracy theory and, frankly, the hardest for me to believe," he said.

Before the premiere, Mr. Slesinger said he expected to be arrested for trespassing, or some other minor offense. He seemed somewhat disappointed when nobody from the theater's management, or the city police asked him to leave.

At one point, a police officer eating an ice cream cone walked right past him without so much as a glance.

He later changed his tune and said he would use the lack of enforcement as a precedent to return.

"I'm very pleased that they decided not to arrest me," he said.

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