About 200 protesters crowded in front of an Arizona mosque Saturday afternoon to demonstrate against Islam as part of a nationwide campaign that went largely unheeded.
KTAR radio reports that the protesters in Phoenix held a rally in front of the Islamic Community Center. The rally appeared to be most significant size in the country after a call for protests against Islam in America this weekend.
KSAZ reports 19 other cities held protests organized by the “Global Rally for Humanity” group against radical Islam. Many Muslim protesters showed up as well to give their community a voice.
“They're trying to say that the whole religion, or all of the Muslims are just like the violent extremists," said Sumayyah Dawud, who is Muslim.
Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center said, rally organizers are displaying their bigotry.
Rally organizer John Ritzheimer said he’s not against Muslims, but he’s against what he calls their ideology. He led a rally at the mosque in May after two former congregants were killed when they attacked an anti-Islam event in Texas.
"The way my mother raised me, she told me a story about mother Theresa, mother Theresa was invited to an anti-war rally and she said 'oh no I would never go to an anti-anything rally, but if you were to have a pro-peace rally, I would surly go to that."
Greg Burelson, who told The Guardian he was a militia member who spends his time tracking cartel members at the border, said the mosque was a breeding ground for terrorists.
“They can practice Islam in their own country,” Burelson said. “I don’t want it shoved down my throat in my own country.”
As the protests continued, the rally received some unwelcomed visitors. When alleged Nazi sympathizers showed up, Rizheimer said he asked the group to leave because “they do not represent us.”
Shami told The Guardian he was encouraged by the small turnout in comparison to the May protest, but was worried over the long-term consequences of a climate of intolerance in a country filled with firearms.
“What these guys are doing is creating an atmosphere of hatred,” he said. “We live in a time where we witness mass shootings every day. There are people who are less stable mentally and it could push them over the edge.”
The demonstration only had one moment of intensity when two anti-Islam protesters crossed the barriers, leading to a brief second of pushing and shoving. It was quelled by police soon after.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.