“Stop Islam” - Anti-Islam Protest outside US Mosque in Phoenix
PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Anti-Islam protesters — some of them heavily armed — faced off against religious rights demonstrators outside a US mosque Friday, in a tense but peaceful standoff.
General view of the Islamic Community Center before an Anti-Islam rally on May 29, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. Crowds gathered in response to a planned “freedom of speech” demonstration where attendees were encouraged to bring weapons and “draw Mohammed”. PHOTO: AFP
About 200 demonstrators from each group stood outside the mosque in Phoenix, Arizona, where a biker crew had said they would hold a Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) cartoon contest.
Dozens of officers lined up between the two sets of protesters, using yellow police tape to separate them near the gates of the Islamic Community Center mosque in north Phoenix.
Protesters and counter-protesters rally outside the Islamic Community Center on May 29, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. PHOTO: AFP
“Stop Islam” was among the slogans on placards held by bearded bikers, one of whom wore a T-shirt reading “Support Your Local White Boy” and had a shouting match with rival demonstrators across the police lines.
Several anti-Islam protesters were heavily armed — some with AR-15 assault rifles — and wore military fatigues. Arizona has some of the laxest gun laws in the United States.
Anti-Islam protesters gesture to supporters of an Islamic Community Centre during a demonstration in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
But after several hours of tension, the standoff eased — though officers kept the two groups apart.
Organisers of the anti-Islam protests said on their Facebook page that it was in response to a recent failed attack in Texas where two gunmen were shot dead before they could storm an event including a Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) cartoon drawing competition.
Sumach Dawud (L) and Jala Abbas Yousufzai (C) gesture at anti-Islam protesters during a demonstration near an Islamic Community Centre in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
An anti-Islam protester carries a weapon as he films during a demonstration near an Islamic Community Centre in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
“Everyone is encouraged to bring American flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunman,” who frequented the Phoenix mosque, the Facebook page said.
Sumach Dawud (C) holds up a poster in support of the Islamic Community Center during a rally in support of an Islamic Community Centre in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
The anti-Islam protest’s organizer, former Marine Jon Ritzheimer, told CNN before the Friday night demonstration: “I think the whole thing, the cartoon contest especially, I think it’s stupid and ridiculous.
An anti-Islam protester shouts at police during a protest near an Islamic Community Centre in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2015. Police stepped in to separate anti-Islam protesters outside a US mosque from demonstrators defending religious rights, in a tense but peaceful standoff. PHOTO: AFP
“But it’s what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Islam,” he added.
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