Friday, May 29, 2015

Mohammed cartoon contest planned for Phoenix anti-Islam rally

The contest will take place outside Phoenix mosque. The attendees are encouraged to bring their guns.
PHOENIX - An anti-Islam rally in Phoenix on Friday will feature a Muhammad cartoon-drawing contest.

The scheduled location is outside the Islamic Community Center in north Phoenix.

The gathering comes less than a month after a similar event in Texas sparked gunfire that left two gunmen, both from Phoenix, dead.

The gunmen, whom federal officials identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, wounded a security officer before they were shot and killed at the scene.

Simpson had worshipped at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix for about a decade, but he quit showing up over the past two or three months, the president of the mosque told The Associated Press.

A convert to Islam, Simpson first attracted the FBI's attention in 2006 because of his ties to a former U.S. Navy sailor who had been arrested in Phoenix and was ultimately convicted of terrorism-related charges. Less was known about Soofi, who appeared to have never been prosecuted in federal court, according to a search of court records.

The organizer of Friday's event said he had to do “something” because he does not want Islam spreading in the U.S.

“We’re just out utilizing our First Amendment,” organizer Jon Ritzheimer said.

Ritzheimer said he would not shoulder any responsibility if the event turned violent.

The Valley man organized an anti-Islam rally outside the same location several weeks ago, which was peaceful, he said.

He is urging attendees to be peaceful once again, but the Facebook page for the event warns people to come armed because of a “much-anticipated attack.”

Phoenix police released a statement Thursday, saying officers are aware of the event and are "working together [with other departments] to help ensure a safe event."
Dealing with this type of activity is a challenge that is facing law enforcement across the country. Dealing with groups of protesters and opposing views is not the difficult part. Our goal and the real challenge are trying to anticipate unlawful activities that might occur in conjunction with these events.
Phoenix police said they would have officers at the event, but would not provide other specifics regarding security measures.

Arizona's Council on American-Islamic Relations met with law enforcement on Wednesday and said they are grateful for their presence at Friday's protest.

"We thank law enforcement authorities for their proactive effort to ensure the safety of the mosque's congregation from hate-filled and armed protesters," said CAIR-AZ Chairman Imraan Siddiqi. "The promise of a heavy police presence at the rally of armed biker gang members will help calm fears of harassment and even attacks on worshipers."

A man who lives near the site of the planned rally hopes any violence does not affect neighbors.

“I just hope there’s no gun shots or anything going on,” Cristopher Cabrera said.