Anti-Sharia law rallies are set to begin in 19 states on Saturday in the wake of Islamist attacks around the world during the month of Ramadan, but potentially violent conflict is brewing as counter rallies organize and Portland officials seek to shut down the protests.
ACT for America, a grassroots national security organization, organized a nation-wide March Against Sharia, claiming that “many aspects of Sharia law run contrary to basic human rights and are completely incompatible with our laws and our democratic values.” ACT states that they seek to protect women and children from honor killings, female genital mutilation, and other practices that they say are endorsed or prescribed by Islamic law.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler recently asked the federal government to deny permits for the March Against Sharia scheduled in Portland, citing concerns over rising tensions that he attributes to the recent attack against Muslims on a light rail train that ended with the stabbing of two men, and hate speech against Muslims in Oregon.
“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation,” Wheeler said. His bid for the government to revoke the free speech rally’s permit was unsuccessful, and March Against Sharia is still scheduled to take place in Portland.
While the stabbing of two men on a light rail train and death threats aimed at members of a mosque in Eugene, Ore. have caused concern for Muslim leaders over Saturday’s looming protests, the more frequent source of violence centering around protests in Portland have been counter rallies organized by Antifa and “black-bloc” anarchists.
Black bloc anarchists vandalized and destroyed Portland property in November during an anti-Trump protest and in May during May Day protests, according to a report from The Boston Globe. Antifa caused the cancellation of Portland’s April Rose Day parade by demanding that a conservative group be removed from the parade and threatening to block the roads if their demands were not met.
Violence also erupted during the June 4 Free Speech Trump Rally when Antifa protesters stormed the rally and attacked police.
Despite these violent outbursts by far-left groups, Wheeler has denounced the Free Speech Rally, Trump supporters and other conservative demonstrators as racists who bring a “message of hate” to Portland.
Wheeler opposed the actions of the vandalism and destruction caused by anarchists during the May Day protests, but has not publicly denounced the black bloc anarchists or Antifa.
We need to reckon with the fact that racist words lead to violence. We must decide what we’re going to do about it. https://t.co/3duTBYb9zx
— Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) May 31, 2017
Conservative organizations Three Percenters and Oath Keepers have pledged to provide security to some of the March Against Sharia rallies around the country in light of counter rallies materializing in cities like Syracuse, Seattle and Portland.
“ACT for America has never, and will never, tolerate any bias, discrimination, or violence against anyone, based on their religion, gender, race, or political persuasion,” its website reads. “Freedom to practice one’s religion in peace is afforded to each of us by the U.S. Constitution and we will continue to defend it vigorously.”