October 9, 2015

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The perfect storm of Islamophobia cresting around the nation could reach a new watermark of ugliness this weekend, as armed protesters are planning to gather outside at least 20 mosques in various locations around the United States.

Calling the protests part of a “Global Rally for Humanity,” the self-described “Patriots” plan to bring weapons to protest outside Muslim worship centers on Saturday.

According to the Center for New Community, the protests are the brainchild of Phoenix anti-Muslim activist Jon Ritzheimer, who made headlines in May by organizing an armed protest outside a Phoenix-area mosque. Ritzheimer later told the Phoenix New Times that he intended to take his protest idea global. Ritzheimer also has a history of issuing ugly threats, including his threat to arrest Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow for having voted in favor of President Obama’s arms deal with Iran. Even his fellow militiamen from Michigan disavowed that one.

But he's energized once again with his plan for the weekend.

“I’m going to tell everybody to utilize your Second Amendment [rights] in case we come under that much anticipated attack," he said. Ritzheimer never explained who he thought might attack them.

Two days after posting a video announcing the protest, he posted another video disavowing any responsibility for the protests, saying he was not the “mastermind” – “No, I cannot take credit for such a wonderful rally” – but that he was avidly supporting it anyway. Her punctuated that video by holding up a copy of the Koran and shooting it with a pistol.

In late August he posted another video that once again promoted the protest and attacked Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who will be leading a protest Saturday in Washington D.C. Ritzheimer warned him not to carry out a purported plan to take down the American flag at the White House.

“Just know that we III Percent, we militiamen are standing at the ready across our nation,” he said. “And when you strike, we will strike back. We will level and demolish every mosque across this country."

Despite Ritzheimer’s claims of a “global” protest that would include Australia and the U.K., so far events are confined to the United States, spread around in 22 cities so far (see map here), with the largest concentration of them in Florida and Texas, where three cities are scheduled to see armed protesters. Each of the Facebook page promoting a protest has taken a localized approach: “Our local law enforcement officers and our country are under threat like never before. Rally up with other patriots in support of local law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect us,” read the Facebook page for the rally in Medford, Ore.

Meanwhile, in Port Orchard, Wash., the pitch was a different concern: “We need to send a clear message to them that we won't accept Sharia Law here in this county!!”

The Council for Islamic-American Relations issued an advisory urging mosque-goers to be careful and take safety precautions this weekend.

"A lot of the times with stuff like this, we don't know if it's just bluster or something serious,” CAIR executive director Ibrahim Hooper told the International Business Times. "Our position is generally not to give attention to people seeking cheap publicity. But there's been enough violent rhetoric around this event that we just felt it prudent to alert the community about what actions they can take to make sure everyone is safe and secure."

Organizing each of the rallies was fairly simple: All a would-be organizer had to do was create a new page on Facebook, following instructions from the original Global Rally for Humanity page: “This is how fellow patriots in your area can get in touch with one another. And if there is not an event page set up for your area yet then its time for you to take the initiative and start a page and invite patriots and share it.”

It is not certain all the rallies will come off as planned. At least one – in Racine, Wisc. – has already been canceled after their Facebook page was filled with disgusted reactions from locals.

"Unbelievable! And people wonder why we have mass shootings. Stop teaching hate!” one reader responded.

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