|Anti-Muslim bigot and rally organizer Jon Ritzheimer. (Photo captured from video)|
By Tom Dart
Demonstrators squared off outside a Phoenix mosque amid a heavy police presence on Saturday, during the highest-profile of a series of anti-Islam rallies that were planned to be staged nationwide .
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Some Muslim leaders had approached the weekend with caution, but many of the so-called Global Rally for Humanity events that had been promoted on social media appeared not to materialize or to be attended by no more than a handful of protesters.
The Phoenix protest, though, attracted more than 120 demonstrators – and more than 30 law enforcement officials.
draw the prophet ” contest near Dallas in May had spent time – and followed a far bigger rally earlier this year .
Anti-Islam protesters lined up along a street, faced by a smaller set of counter-protesters, with the sides separated by two sets of metal crowd control barriers. They frequently yelled at each other.
|If the crypto-Nazis really cared about "Islamic terrorism"|
they would be confronting this issue head on.
American flags were prominent among the anti-Islam crowd of approximately 80 people, about a third bearing arms ranging from revolvers to assault rifles. Several people on the other side of the street were also toting weapons. Open carry is legal in Arizona.
Greg Burleson, who said he was a militia member who usually spent his weekends at the border tracking cartel members, said the mosque was a breeding ground for terrorists.
“I want them the fuck out of my neighbourhood,” he said. “They can practice Islam in their own country. I don’t want it shoved down my throat in my own country.”
A man who gave his name only as Richard and carried a placard with the slogan “Unite against Islamic terrorists now” said the event was “a wonderful opportunity for people to get out and express themselves”.
He added: “We don’t want Islam to take over the country and that’s what they want to do. They want to take over the world.”
Joanne Scott Woods, a counter-protester and community activist, said the anti-Islam protesters “have freedom of speech but they are bigoted. Just bigoted. We can’t change that. I’m glad they’re not shooting us.”