Phoenix protests Islamism
“We will pay you back today – the event won’t finish without kuffar (infidel) blood. We promise…” So read an ISIS Twitter threat against the organizers and protesters of the Muhammad cartoon drawing and free speech rally May 29 in Phoenix (which, in a twist of irony, is hosting COMICON the same weekend – an event that attracts 80,000 cartoon-loving comic book artists and readers).
But in spite of the jihadists’ effort to intimidate, the anti-Islamist gathering went forward successfully, dealing a huge public relations blow to the “big turban, no camels” ISIS devotee while at the same time demonstrating the enormous strength of the American constitutional system – particularly as codified in our First and Second Amendments.
Not missing an opportunity to agitate for sharia (speech criticizing Muhammad is condemned in sharia, or Islamic law), the Muslim Brotherhood mouthpiece CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations) took advantage of the controversy surrounding the rally and called a press conference to launch their own jihad against the characters of the cartoon-drawing coalition (bikers, veterans, street preachers, grandmothers, Middle Eastern Christians, retirees, etc. – basically proud Americans who love America).
“There are no good values in this [protest]. These [people] are certainly not anything that America is proud of,” said Phoenix CAIR representative Yasir Shareef. He did not comment on how he became the spokesman for America or its veterans on this issue, but he did go on to promise that the Muslim community “will not stand for bigotry, hate or racism of any type.”
Fellow Arizona CAIR member Imraam Siddiqi echoed Shareef’s sentiments: “We’ve advised the community to stay away from this event so CAIR has advised local Muslims to try and steer clear of this because if people are spewing this level of rhetoric and this level of hatred, this is not a forum for dialog and engagement.”
Ignoring CAIR’s plea, a number of Muslims gathered at the mosque anyway in order to protest the protest. Joined by leftists, liberal Christian groups, and others, they deemed themselves the “love” rally.
I was on the ground at this event, from the pre-rally gathering at Washington Park that started around 5pm until the sun set behind the Islamic Community Center mosque. The reality is that there were strong opinions that manifested by a few on both sides in perversity, profanity, and pigheadedness. Shouting, cursing, and slandering via megaphones, signs, and banners exhibited the intensity felt. At times tempers flared, and threats went back and forth.
But at other times, tears flowed, flags waved, and conversations ensued. Each side sang “God Bless America” on several occasions and chanted in unison “USA, USA.” Protesters on both sides invoked the Bible and Jesus’s words for guidance.
But in spite of the colorful language, constant yelling, tensions, differences, and misunderstandings on both sides, by the end of the event there was no violence, no bloodshed, no vandalism, no assaults on the police, and most importantly, no ISIS terror attack.
Contrary to CAIR’s pre-rally indictment, this is why both protests were a resounding success – the kind of success the framers of the Constitution envisioned when those impassioned by their beliefs seek an outlet to express those convictions. For all at the rally, the objective of an unhindered exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly was achieved.
The success of the event is also attributable to the courageous exercise and support of the Second Amendment. Arizona is considered to have the best Second Amendment protection laws in the country, which is to say that Arizonans recognize that apart from the repeal of the Second Amendment, gun ownership and carrying – whether concealed or open – is an alienable right that cannot be infringed or regulated. No permit, license, registration, or any other government approval is required to keep and bear arms.
Proudly exercising this right, many on the anti-Islamist side armed themselves to the teeth. It was not uncommon to see protesters with pistols, AR15 semi-automatics, shotguns, or knives.
And no doubt this is partly why there were no attacks. Contrast this with leftist-run Maryland, which in the same extensive survey ranked nearly last – 44th out of 50 – in its Second Amendment support. The reasons? The Old Line State unconstitutionally burdens its citizens to obtain a license to own a gun, requires them to be registered in a government database, and makes obtaining a carry permit difficult to the point that they are rarely issued.
The Baltimore protests-turned-riots earlier this year showed some of the implications of these unconstitutional add-ons: shop owners couldn’t defend themselves against the mobs, and peaceful protesters ended up at the mercy of the criminal gangs.
A third major reason for the success of the Phoenix protest is the way the Phoenix Police Department handled the event coupled with the respect the protesters gave them. In stark contrast to the Baltimore riots, all protesters on both sides complied with the directions law enforcement gave, thereby enabling Phoenix’s finest to do their job of keeping the peace and ensuring freedom of speech, safe assembly, and the right to carry any weapon of choice.
Equally observable was the respect the Phoenix Police Department had for the protesters. I had several interactions with the officers on duty, including a plainclothes community relations officer and several clad in riot gear. In each case, I was treated with nothing but respect and dignity.
“We’ve taken precautions to try and be ready tonight … we hope that everyone respects each other and their goals for tonight and it creates a safe event for all of us,” summarized Sergeant Trent Crump of the Phoenix PD in anticipation of the rally.
And safe it was. Expert handling of the event by the Phoenix police and their well-organized presence kept it at that – just words. In a few cases, they even facilitated peaceful, profane-free dialog and conversation between the members of the two camps.
Protests don’t usually garner the kind of protection and presence the Phoenix police dedicated to this event. While the Phoenix PD wouldn’t reveal the exact number of undercover and uniformed police on hand, nor the cost, it did make clear that the heavy and expansive presence was only partly to prevent gun violence or threats from being carried out against the mosque. The greater reason for their ubiquity was to ensure safety against revolutionary Islamists who had promised jihad against this event. By turning the area into a veritable fortress, no drive-by-shooting terrorist or car-bombing jihadist was able to get anywhere near the gathering.
And so the Phoenix protest demonstrated that constitutional America works. In Baltimore, 486 were arrested; in Phoenix, 0. In Baltimore, 113 officers were attacked and injured; in Phoenix, 0. In Baltimore, vandals and thugs inflicted $20 million in damage to their neighbors. In Phoenix, the vandal damage was precisely $0. Indeed, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.