- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a staff writer for Foreign Policy, where he oversees FP's breaking news blog, The Cable. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
An armed biker gang. Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. A mosque in Arizona. What could possibly go wrong?
We’ll find out Friday, when two organizers — Jon Ritzheimer and Flash Nelson — host what’s being billed as a peaceful demonstration outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix. It’s the former site of worship for Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were killed after opening fire outside a May 3 contest featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in suburban Dallas. Simpson had no direct link to the Islamic State but was sympathetic to its cause. Many Muslims consider depictions of Mohammed blasphemous.
Just like the cartoon contest outside Dallas, this event, scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Friday, appears to welcome controversy. In a Facebook invite, the planners urge attendees to take full advantage of their Second Amendment right to carry weapons. So far, 163 people have RSVP’d.
Here’s the Facebook post in full, verbatim:
ROUND 2!!!!!!! This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ. This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist [sic], with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad. Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen. This Islamic Community Center is a known place that the 2 terrorist [sic] frequented. People are also encouraged to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just incase [sic] our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.
- Date will be Friday May 29th @ 6:15pm. This is when they normally host a large prayer.
- Bikers wil [sic] meet at the Denny’s located at 9030 N Black Canyon Hwy Phoenix, AZ 85051@ 5:00pm. Kick Stands up at 6pm.
- There will be a Muhammad Cartoon Contest and the winner will be announced at the After Party. Participants must show cartoon at the Rally.
- We will not have food vendors at this event because we don’t want this to turn into a carnival. People can bring snacks and water but please keep the neighborhood clean.
- There will be an after party starting at 8:30pm at Wild Bills located at 6840 N. 27th Ave Phx, AZ.
Thank you all for your Support.
The rally is a follow-up to one earlier this month, which drew little attention. Facebook reveals little about Nelson, but Ritzheimer’s posts show him to be virulently anti-Muslim.
On his personal page, Ritzheimer has photos of him waving an American flag while wearing a “Fuck Islam” T-shirt. He identifies himself as a former Marine and states that he works with Dysfunctional Veterans, a group that appears to be a community for former soldiers.
Ritzheimer did not return a request for comment Thursday. He told local media in Arizona, “I’m a Marine, and I am far from politically correct.… I’m outspoken, and I’ve just had it.”
Photo credit: The Sydney Morning Herald/Contributor