A group of several hundred demonstrators on Friday attended a rally outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, the mosque allegedly linked to the two men who attacked a “Draw Muhammad” contest organized by Pamela Geller in Garland, Texas.
According to the Associated Press, police estimated the crowd size at 500 people–split evenly between the free speech protesters and the counter-protesters in support of the mosque. Police blocked off all streets leading to the mosque, keeping a close watch over the proceedings. As of this writing, no arrests or injuries have been reported.
— Carter Nacke (@carternacke) May 30, 2015
The free speech protesters carried flags; drawings of Muhammad, the author of Islam’s Quran; signs decrying Muslim threats to Western society; and, thanks to Arizona’s open carry freedoms, firearms to respond immediately to any possible aggression.
Organizer Jon Ritzheimer, a former Marine, said Friday’s event was designed to respond to backlash against Geller’s. He said of his intent:
This is not about race or any other side agenda that the Liberals are making it out to be. This is purely 100% a Freedom of Speech Rally. Stand Tall and show that we can PEACEFULLY protest our rights that are under attack. That is the sole cause for this Rally and Islam wants to silence us.
Ritzheimer’s home address was published and his family was threatened, leading him to move his wife and children out of state before leaving for the protest site. Several pro-jihadist social media accounts warned that anyone involved in the protest would be attacked. Ritzheimer told local media he will go into hiding after the rally’s conclusion.