Before protesting outside the mosque, the bikers will meet at a nearby Denny's to hold their own little “Draw Muhammad” event and will take the illustrations of the Muslim prophet with them to the protest at 6:15 in the evening – the same time the Muslim community with gather outside.
Local police and FBI have been informed of the event and the Muslim community is surely aware. Will we see radical Muslims initiate violence? Today also happens to be the Muslim day of communal prayer, further adding to the likelihood that the peaceful protest will be anything but.
Here is Jon’s verbatim Facebook post:
ROUND 2!!!!!!! This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ. This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist, with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad. Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen. This Islamic Community Center is a known place that the 2 terrorist frequented. People are also encouraged to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just incase [sic] our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.
The Mosque is the former site of worship for Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were killed after opening fire outside Pamela Geller’s May 3 contest featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in suburban Dallas.
Islamic Community Center of Phoenix
Here is today’s schedule:
- Today, Friday May 29th @ 6:15 pm. This is when they normally host a large prayer.
- Bikers will meet at the Denny’s located at 9030 N Black Canyon Hwy Phoenix, AZ [email protected] 5:00pm. Kick Stands up at 6pm.
- There will be a Muhammad Cartoon Contest and the winner will be announced at the After Party. Participants must show cartoon at the Rally.
There will be an after party starting at 8:30 pm at Wild Bills located at 6840 N. 27th Ave Phx, AZ.
The event already has many signups, there could be hundreds involved by 6:15pm.
As of Wednesday morning, 128 people had signed up to attend the Phoenix rally.
There are a few important points about this event that are worth noting, briefly.
- First, this rally shows how seemingly fringe figures like Pamela Geller have (even unintentionally) inspired copycat demonstrations across the country. Geller and company don’t tote weapons, but biker gangs who sympathize with her views often do. Ahead of a Muslim event in Garland, Texas back in January, some motorcyclists showed up with long guns. In 2011, fundamentalist Christian pastor Terry Jones planned a protest outside of a Dearborn mosque, indicating that he and his supporters would be armed. Ultimately, authorities prevented the gathering. Though the bikers at these events did not fire their weapons, the possibility of violence increases when armed demonstrators swarm a group of people they dislike. For Ritzheimer and his fellow bikers, Islam is a religion that inspires violence among its followers. Muslims are a dangerous threat. At this latest protest in Phoenix, Geller’s supporters are taking what — in their minds — is the logical next step: possibly resorting to violence.
- Next, this event is yet another reminder of the degree to which “free speech” demonstrations are often veneers for deep-seated animus. The point that the Phoenix bikers are making with this event is less about free speech than it is about expressing their hatred of Islam directly to Muslims. This is evidenced by the obscene comments on the group’s page, the vulgar t-shirts that the group will sell (and wear) ahead of their gathering, and the fact that the organizers have chosen to intentionally antagonize Muslims at their mosque by arriving en masse, insulting their religion to their faces, intimidating them with their weapons, and expecting that they quietly embrace all of this in the name of the First Amendment.
- Lastly, it highlights the degree to which Islamophobia runs rampant on the Internet, and how social media has become a breeding ground for groups like this who, in addition to fomenting their views online, use the virtual space to plan and organize actual events. This is central to the effectiveness of groups like Geller’s, who time and again have nurtured online bases and issued calls to action. In 2010, the hue and cry in the streets of Manhattan over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” was Geller’s work, and in the past five years dozens of bloggers and web-goers have translated armchair enthusiasm about issues related to Islam into on-the-ground activism against Muslim groups.
The FBI is currently investigating threatening letters that were sent to the mosque, and an entourage of armed people gathered outside of it on Friday evening will only make matters worse.