Five anti-Muslim protesters and 400 peace supporters meet at New York rally

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Source: The Guardian

By A in Islamberg, New York

American Bikers United Against Jihad spent months calling for people to join the event in Islamberg, but in the end supporters far outnumbered protesters

A motorcycle group’s plan to “raise awareness” of the threat of homegrown jihad by riding to an all-Muslim New York town backfired on Sunday, when only five motorcyclists showed up. Hundreds of people, meanwhile, flocked to the town to show their support for its residents.

American Bikers United Against Jihad spent months calling for people to take part in the event, which organizers described as a “ride for national security” and promised would see “hundreds” of bikers riding past Islamberg, in upstate New York.

But the five riders who showed up found themselves completely overshadowed when more than 400 people travelled to Islamberg – some driving for hours to get there – to take part in a “peace rally and community day”.

As the motorcyclists rode past the town, about three hours north-west of New York City, residents and supporters stood along the street. Some waved American flags, some called out “Welcome!” Others chanted: “Freedom, justice, USA!”

“I don’t know what they’re riding against,” said Islamberg mayor Rashid Clark. “My only concern is for our safety. It doesn’t provoke me.”

After witnessing the ride-by, the supporters – who included people from Christian churches and other faiths – were welcomed into the town. Residents laid on food, music and speeches from community leaders.

“We just decided, ‘OK, if you want to ride by we’re going to hold a peace rally,’” said Clark, 46. “And that idea came from the fact that all these community members, all these people you see here, they also found [details of the rally] online and they called us, and said they wanted to come and support. This turnout is not our doing.”

The majority of Islamberg residents are African Americans. The town was established by The Muslims of America in 1984, and is home to around 25 families. The organization has established more than a dozen towns across the US, with Islamberg serving as its headquarters.

A series of online conspiracy theories have given rise to the idea that Muslims of America towns are home to jihad training camps. The notion has been repeatedly debunked by law enforcement officials, but this has not deterred extremists.

In April 2015, a man named Robert Doggart pleaded guilty to planning to attack Islamberg. He faces trial this summer. In November 2015, the FBI issued a warning to New York police after Jon Ritzheimer, a man later involved in the occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon, posted a video online saying he planned to drive to Islamberg and confront residents.

American Bikers United Against Jihad planned to set off for Islamberg at noon. Ram Lubranicki, the main organiser, described the ride as an “educational” event designed to draw attention to “jihad camps” in the town.

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1 reply

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