Richardson, Texas (TFC)- Peace ensued after three separate groups attended a protest outside of the grounds of the Islamic Association of North Texas (IANT) Mosque on March 18th, 2017. The protest was scheduled to be against IANT by a group who call themselves B.A.I.R., Bureau of American Islamic Relations, a group which considers themselves a patriotic militia, whose purpose is to support the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the rule of law in the United States. The counter-protest, set up independently by Omair Siddiqi, had a purpose to set a peaceful “human chain” around the grounds of the mosque to show support and solidarity with the Muslim community. A third group, a communist self-stylized “anti-facist” group (Antifa) called Dallas Workers Front, appeared in all black and wielded red flags, carrying sections of PVC pipe and other assorted hand wielded weapons as well as an AK-47 and an AR-15.
The beginning of the gathering consisted mainly of supporters of the counter-protest in front of the mosque grounds as well as members of the Dallas Workers Front/Antifa across the street. Legal observers from the ACLU of Texas, who were requested to be present by the counter-protest organizers, were also in attendance. Richardson Police Department also showed a very palpable presence, with patrol vehicles in every parking lot surrounding the gathering sites as well as marked vehicles and plain clothes officers patrolling the area. The militia, however, did not make their presence known early on for the event.
Omair Siddiqi, when asked about his thoughts about the protest by B.A.I.R., said “I’ve known their stance and kind of what they believe, and what they have in their mind. I know personally that’s not going to change, and we pray as… I’m Muslim, I pray for them that, you know, that God guides them to the right path and that they understand where Muslims and us as a humanity, where we stand and where we should stand as a peace-loving group, but I know they’ll have their differences and I respect that, you know I respect them coming out here to protest, they have the full right to do that, and one thing I didn’t just want to idly stand by and just kind of ignore them. A lot of people suggested that to me, just ignore them and kind of move on, but I think ignoring them doesn’t do anything. Some people say just coming out and standing here doesn’t do anything, but I think it shows support and solidarity to the Muslim community, and they really need that right now, especially since the election of Donald Trump. Islamophobia is on the rise. There’s a lot of hate crimes against Muslims, minority groups, Jewish synagogues and cemeteries, so I think it’s a climate of hate right now and us coming together like this shows communities that there’s peace and loving people out there and that hate won’t prevail.”
Al Woolum, Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress Texas District 12, who was also in attendance in support of the counter-protest, said “A democracy depends on us talking our differences out. We don’t sit there and threaten our neighbors with guns, and that’s what [B.A.I.R. is] doing, and I just don’t see any real purpose or any way to really solve problems and come to agreement with people that we differ with politically, if you’re going to yell and scream and threaten with weapons. That has no place.” When asked about his stance on keeping and bearing arms, he stated that he is in support of open and concealed carry with background checks to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill and potential domestic terrorists, and that he is also intending to get a concealed carry permit for himself.
Support for the counter-protest grew to over 200 people before members of B.A.I.R. arrived in a parking lot to the south of the mosque complex. Their arrival sparked a confrontation with the Dallas Workers Front/Antifa group, with a heated exchange of words, including B.A.I.R. leader David Wright accusing the Antifas of being paid by controversial billionaire George Soros for their presence, and the Antifas calling out “hypocrite” when Wright asked why they had their faces covered, pointing out another militia member whose face was covered by a blue bandanna. A few minutes of banter later, one of the Antifas threw water on a militia member, causing heightened tensions and causing police to draw closer to the gathered mass with their weapons at low ready. Dr. Samad Khan, a physician from Plano, Texas, as well as Siddiqi, tried to talk about peace with the Antifas, but their efforts were snubbed as one of the Antifas stated “You can’t love facists, man.”
Meanwhile, the human chain of support for the Muslim community remained on the mosque grounds, unaware of the details of the disturbance happening just down the road.
Despite the agitation efforts from the Dallas Workers Party/Antifa, Wright, Siddiqi, and Khan, as well as others, set aside their differences and agreed to have lunch and a discussion. The discussion went so well that they agreed to plan a future united demonstration against ISIS.
After the events, David Wright contacted The Fifth Column with his statement:
“That mosque was caught in 2005 funding terrorists, court documents prove it. We did have lunch with them, we did talk, and there is an open dialogue now. The program that caught them was canceled by [former President] Obama, I can prove that too. We want Trump to re-implement the program and monitor their transactions. It was the largest terror funding operation in American history so it deserves the [sic] second look.”
In a video posted to Facebook, Omair Siddiqi reiterated his frustrations about B.A.I.R. and also his frustrations about the actions of the Dallas Workers Front/Antifa, saying that their tactics were “counterproductive” in terms of how they were claiming to be supporters of the Muslim community, but their confrontation with B.A.I.R. made the militia group “look like the good guys”.
While communication lines have been opened up for now, and a shaky peace has been observed in one Texas town, both sides appear to be keeping a careful watch on each other.
[Edited after publishing by the author for sentence structure.]