BEDMINSTER, N.J. — A somber and tearful group of protesters stood between two American flags behind a public library, in stark contrast to the festivities at a golf tournament three miles down the road. They made their statements and promoted their cause, but declined to take the fight to the gates of Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
“We’re pleased that folks are refocusing attention on this issue,” said Jay Winuk, one among the protest’s organizers. “There is no such thing as a reason to go over to the scene where one more atrocity is happening.”
The group, a band of members of the family of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, spoke vehemently against the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament being held this weekend on the club owned by a former president, Donald J. Trump.
The group, 9/11 Justice, seeks to bring Saudi Arabian government officials, whom they assert supported the terrorists, to judgment. They’re infuriated that Trump once agreed that the Saudi government was responsible, but has modified his tune, they said, to money in on Saudi efforts to sanitize the nation’s global image through sports.
“How much money does it take to show your back in your country, on the American people?” said Juliette Scauso, who was 4 years old when her father, the firefighter Dennis Scauso, perished within the attacks.
For days, the LIV golfers and Trump have defended their decisions to align with the breakaway tour and accept thousands and thousands of dollars from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which is overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Critics of the tour say it’s one other example of the Saudis “sportswashing” atrocities attributed to them — supporting the 9/11 terrorists, killing the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and oppressing women and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
Trump, who as a presidential candidate in 2016 blamed the Saudis for the 9/11 attacks, said on Thursday that “no one’s gotten to the underside of 9/11, unfortunately.”
On Friday, the protesters had their likelihood to answer each Trump and to the golfers. Many accused the golfers of cowardice for proclaiming sympathy with their cause while still accepting LIV Golf’s money.
“You’re taking a stand that you just agree with the actions of Saudi Arabia or, just as bad, that you just are so incredibly greedy and callous that you just really don’t care about these atrocities,” Scauso said.
The organizers got here to the protest armed with copies of declassified F.B.I. documents, which they are saying establish a transparent connection between 12 Saudi government officials and the terrorists within the months leading as much as the attacks.
“It’s easy,” said Tim Frolich, who was within the South Tower on 9/11. “The Saudis did it. They plotted it, they funded it, and now they try to distract every one among those things with a golf tournament 50 miles away from ground zero. It’s deplorable.”
The group urged golf fans to boycott LIV Golf and asked golfers and anyone doing business with the Saudis, including broadcasters, to reconsider. On Friday morning, at a close-by Marriott serving as headquarters for the tour on its Bedminster stop, members of the group approached David Feherty, the previous CBS and NBC golf analyst who has defected to hitch the tour although it has no American broadcast television contract yet.
Brett Eagleson, the president of 9/11 Justice, asked Feherty if he would listen and maybe speak to the golfers concerning the decisions they’re making.
“He was actually really receptive,” Eagleson said. “He was really open to working with us and having a partnership with us, versus being combative. I’m hopeful.”
But Eagleson was far less conciliatory about Trump, who he said was more culpable than the golfers, because, as the previous commander in chief, he should know higher. Eagleson was a part of a bunch that met with Trump on the White House on Sept. 11, 2019. They are saying Trump urged them to proceed their work, which they did with vigor on Friday.
Eagleson said Trump’s claim that “no one’s gotten to the underside of 9/11” outraged the members of the family of victims beyond their already simmering anger.
“Our family members are the heroes,” he said, “and the golfers and the previous president are cowards.”
Because the protesters spoke, several passing cars honked horns in support, but a number of drivers yelled out in support of Trump and one yelled on the members of the family to go home.
Winuk, whose brother, Glenn Winuk, a volunteer firefighter, died within the attacks, called the Saudi funds “blood money” and warned that anyone taking it will carry the “stench” of it ceaselessly.
“LIV Golf?” he said. “For me and so many more of us, it’s more like death golf.”
Several members of the group, including former Trump supporters, took turns on the lectern lambasting the Saudis, the golfers and the previous president. When asked what else the group had planned, Eagleson broke down while explaining the exhaustion he and others within the organization felt.
“I’m uninterested in fighting,” he said through the tears.