World Bulletin / News Desk
Hundreds of people attended an anti-Islam rally outside a mosque in the U.S. city of Phoenix on Friday, who faced off with hundreds of counter-protesters supporting the rights and freedoms of Muslims.
The two groups were positioned on both sides of the street in front of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, with a line of police officers standing in the middle to keep them separated, local media reported.
Live television footage showed protesters on the anti-Islam side waving American flags and holding banners that read "Stop Islam", while the other side held placards that said "Stop the hate" and "Love thy neighbor".
Some anti-Islam protesters openly used strong abusive language and racist remarks on their placards, but yet were not charged with inciting hatred against the peaceful Muslim community.
One anti-Muslim protester was seen sporting a t-shirt that said: "Support Your Local White Boy" with Nazi SS bolts on it.
Dubbed "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II", the anti-Islam event was described on Facebook as an alleged “response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist [sic], with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad.”
In a Facebook post Friday, the organizer of the rally, Jon Ritzheimer, a former Marine, admitted that the event was "stupid".
"I admit that what I am doing is stupid but so is stomping on the American flag and I support their rights and freedom to do so," he said.
The rally came just three weeks after two gunmen attacked a similar event in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas.
Despite the heated debate and security concerns, Friday's rally was largely peaceful and no arrests were reported as of 8.45 p.m. local time (GMT 0345).
Both groups were heard yelling at each other.
The event was handed a setback earlier in the day after the bar where an after-party was planned closed its doors for the night, according to NBC-affiliate 12 News.
The Islamic Community Center of Phoenix is the mosque that the gunmen, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, allegedly frequented for a time before the Garland shooting. The suspects allegedly opened fire on the anti-Muslim cartoon event in Garland on May 3, which left a security guard injured before police shot them dead.
Friday's rally was to start about the same time as Muslims began their evening prayers inside the mosque.
It was to feature a contest for cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad, similar to the one in Texas. However, no such contest was held as of 8.45 p.m., local time.
Ritzheimer had also encouraged the participants to come armed at the rally.
The Facebook page dedicated to the event said: "People are also encouraged to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just incase [sic] our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack."
The original plan for the anti-Muslim protesters was to gather at a north Phoenix restaurant before the rally.
When managers of that restaurant found out about the plan, they decided to close the restaurant for three hours to guarantee the safety of their customers, 12 News reported.
Representatives of the Phoenix-area Muslim community urged Muslims to ignore the event.
"This is basically the intersection of Islamophobia and gun culture, the violent rhetoric coming together with anti-Muslim sentiments in a very dangerous situation," Imraan Siddiqi, who directs the Arizona chapter of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Mayıs 2015, 09:55