Texas Mosque Draws Protest, Counter-Protest Demonstrations

About 20 people, half of them armed with rifles, rallied outside a Richardson mosque to protesting Islamist violence and Syrian refugee immigration.

The demonstration organized by the Bureau of American-Islamic Relations drew a counter-demonstration by about 50 people protesting the anti-Islam group's activities. An Associated Press photographer reported that while there were frequent discussions between both sides, those discussions appeared to be peaceful and intervention by the dozen police officers on hand wasn't needed.

"Some of us carry guns because we want to be able to defend ourselves. If you're protesting Islam extremism in public, you're a terrorist target. So we don't want to be the helpless victims," said David wright with BIAR.

One man was arrested at the rally when police noticed the handle of a handgun sticking out of the protester's pocket. The man was pulled aside and arrested without incident after officers confirmed he did not have a concealed handgun license.

"It does sadden me, because in the 21st century in the United States of America in Dallas, Texas -- Richardson, Texas to be more specific -- to see that its almost the wild wild west that you have people feel the only way they can make a point is by flexing heavy machinery and artillery. It.s pitiful," said Imam Shpendim Nadzaku.

The Bureau of American-Islamic Relations previously had organized armed protests outside a mosque in Irving, another Dallas suburb.

Meanwhile, hundreds participated in a "United Against Racism and Hate" rally at Fair Park in Dallas. The interfaith demonstrators marched a few blocks to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center to protest anti-Islamic activities and rhetoric.

Organizers said they feel compelled to speak up because of events like the one in Richardson.

"We've got at least 200, 300 people out here today saying that that's not what they stand for. And that to me is the sign -- the sign that people who preach fear and hate are the minority," said Alia Salem with the Council on American Islamic Relations.

The group also collected Teddy bears which will be donated to an organization that works with refugee children.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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