An anti-Islam, freedom-of-speech rally will take place outside the Tucson Islamic Center on Saturday, July 18.
The event is modeled after a protest at the Phoenix Islamic Cultural Center on May 29, which purportedly was a reaction to the two men who opened fire on a Muhammed cartoon drawing contest in Garland, Texas, earlier this spring.
For the upcoming “Let Freedom Ring Freedom of Speech Rally,” organizer Dean Remington has invited people he calls “true Americans.” He’s calling on “patriots,” “militias,” “motorcycle clubs,” “preppers,” “sovereign citizens,” “and all who would like to voice a concern that Islam is not a religion of peace and the mosques in America are indoctrination centers for Jihad” to protest “activities that threaten America and its citizens our families and economy.”
“BRING IT ON YOU MISGUIDED FANATICS WE ARE READY TO DEFEND OUR COUNTRY AGAINST YOUR ISIS AS YOU COWER IN YOUR MIDDLEEAST COUNTRIES AND RUN TO AMERICA,” Remington wrote on Facebook. (Remington did not respond to New Times’ request for comment, but according to the Facebook page he created for the event, he intends for the rally to remain peaceful.)
Jon Ritzheimer, the man who organized the rally in Phoenix, has been actively posting comments on the Tucson event page but tells New Times that he’s not involved in planning it.
“I support it, but I’m laying low for my family’s sake,” he says. “I hope it stays peaceful.”
Kamel Didan of the Tucson Islamic Center says that based on what he’s seen so far on social media, Remington’s rally “won’t have the same oomph as the one in Phoenix.”
Still “leaders at the center are taking the situation seriously, and have been in touch with local law enforcement to begin assembling a plan. The Islamic Center of Tucson is located near the University of Arizona campus, and Didan says they have received a lot of support from many who live near by — professors, students, and the U of A administration.
"At this point, we're aware of [the protest] and we're monitoring it," says Sergeant Kimberly Bay of the Tucson Police Department. "But since it's a month out, we're still in the early stages." She says the department will design its response when it has a better idea of who is attending.
When word about the rally in Phoenix spread, a coalition of local activist and faith-based groups organized a strong counter-protest that drew hundreds, and a similar counter-movement seems to be brewing for the Tucson rally.
“We must stand up to this hatred, bigotry, Islamophobia, and xenophobia anywhere it surfaces,” writes Phoenix resident Sumayyah Dawud on the Facebook page for her “Stand Up Against Hate” counter-protest.
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“We must not turn a blind eye to these hate groups . . . We must not allow these demonstrations to become a normalized and socially accepted part of society. Nobody of any religion deserves to be harassed like this at their place of prayer, worship, and study. No community deserves to be subjected to such hostility and intimidation.”
When asked if the center was involved in the counter-protest, Didan said, “We’re not going to stop anyone from starting a counter-protest, but we’re not promoting it.” He and others are wary of drawing attention to Remington’s rally.
“They want us to react,” he says. "But when guns are involved, you really have to worry about safety. All it takes is for one person to go ‘click.’”