UPDATE (6/19): In light of increased conversation about the scheduled rally, organizer Dean Remington updated the Facebook event’s description. He responded to criticism of the planned demonstration, and articulated his views on its purpose. “This is not a protest on the ICT [Islamic Center of Tucson] or Muslims,” he wrote, adding that the event was neither a “hate rally” nor an “attack on any religion of peace.” Remington further added that though he was not calling for attendees to bring weapons, he carries his at all times, and reminded readers that the right to open and concealed carry of weapons “can and will be exercised.” He described himself as a retired veteran, a family man, a Christian, and a patriot who, despite feeling safe during his travels around the word, no longer feels that way. In one comment on the group’s Facebook page, made shortly after his amended description, Remington wrote: “These Muzzies [a derogatory term for Muslims] will burn in fiery abyss.” He also continues to spread conspiracies about “stealth Islamic jihad” and that the Islamic Center of Tucson is “basically the first cell of al Qaeda in the United States.” The change in the event’s description does not seem to have deterred individuals from making Islamophobic comments and even threats on the page.
In Arizona, plans are underway for another mosque protest dubbed as a “freedom rally.” The event, organized by a man named Dean Remington, is scheduled for July 18, outside of the Islamic Center of Tucson.
Remington created a Facebook event — “Let Freedom Ring Free Speech Rally”— on June 15, which called upon “ALL WHO WOULD LIKE TO VOICE A CONCERN THAT ISLAM IS NOT A RELIGION OF PEACE AND THE MOSQUES IN AMERICA ARE INDOCTRINATION CENTERS FOR JIHAD AND ACTIVITIES THAT THREATEN AMERICA AND ITS CITIZENS OUR FAMILIES AND ECONOMY.”
Remington, whose Facebook profile says he studied “Hadji [sic] removal” at a firearm training facility, identifies with the American Patriot movement which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, warns of “impending government violence or the need to prepare for a coming revolution.” (The word “haji” is often used as a derogatory term to describe Muslims and Arabs.)
The planned rally in Tucson seems similar to the Phoenix rally late last month, where a group of armed bikers and others assembled outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix where they taunted mosque-goers, held up cartoons of Muhammad, and wore t-shirts reading “F*** Islam.” That rally was inspired by a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, organized by American bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.
Like Phoenix, armed attendees are expected at the July protest, at least according to one Facebook promoter:
Responding to the planned rally, local Arizona Muslims also took to Facebook and organized a counter-demonstration called “Stand Up Against Hate.” They wrote, in part, “Nobody of any religion deserves to be harassed like this at their place of prayer, worship, and study. No community deserves to be subjected to such hostility and intimidation.”