The man who organized the anti Islam rally outside a Phoenix mosque on Friday is reported to be planning to go into hiding. A former Marine Jon Ritzheimer, who also participated in the Iraq War told the New York Daily News that he has received several death threats ever since organizing the event through social media. On Friday, Ritzheimer led some 250 people who also carried assault rifles, pistols, American flags and drawing of the Prophet Muhammad to the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix. The group was met by 250 others who had come to the mosque in support of the Muslim community.
The protest came a month after the shootout outside a contest venue in Dallas Suburb that had hosted a contest for drawing Prophet Muhammad’s cartoon. At the Dallas event, two Phoenix men showed up with assault rifles and were killed by police. The men offered formal prayers at the Phoenix mosque were the protest was held on Friday.
At the rally, Rizheimer told reporters that he is being targeted by terrorists and they were calling for lone wolves to behead him.
Though some 500 people showed up for the rally that followed moments of escalating tension and shouting, police were able to keep the two groups separated. No violence was reported.
Around 9.30 pm as the event wound down, Ritzheimer told the crowd that he was now feeling forced to go into hiding on account of his opposition to Islam and considering the threats that his family has received.
Although the event was marked by inflammatory messages and a divide between the two groups, it also saw some reconciliation.
A Phoenix resident, Jason Lager wearing one of the shirts laced with profanity, accepted an invitation to join an evening prayer inside the mosque and stated that the experience had changed him. He added that it was something he had never seen before. He took his shoes off and kneeled. He saw a group of peaceful people and everyone got along. Lager added that people inside the mosque made him feel welcome and he thought everybody’s point was being misconstrued and people were saying things that they did not believe and just speaking out of emotion.