Hundreds of protesters gather outside Phoenix mosque under close police watch

Nearly 500 protesters gathered outside a Phoenix mosque Friday as police divided the two groups sparring about Islam.

A Phoenix man who says he is a former Marine who fought in the Iraq war organized the event and believes Islam is a violent religion. He led about 250 people who carried pistols, assault rifles, American flags and drawings of the Prophet Muhammad to the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

The group was met by another group of similar size, some holding signs promoting love and peace, who came to show their support for the Mosque and Muslim community.

As the two sides argued and yelled at each other, dozens of police officers formed a line separating the groups. There were no reports of injuries or arrests at the protests, which lasted a few hours and gained attention around the country on social media. Phoenix police estimate about 500 protesters showed up, roughly 250 on each side.

The protest came about a month after a shootout outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon-drawing contest in a Dallas suburb. Two Phoenix men showed up at the Dallas event with assault rifles and were killed by police. The men formerly worshipped at the Phoenix mosque where Friday’s protest was held.

The Associated Press contributed to this report