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If you’re going to do anything in a public space you have no expectation of privacy. You’re truly clueless if you believe otherwise, especially so in a world where almost everyone has a smart phone with a camera and instant access to social media.

This morning about forty anti-Muslim protestors set up in a fenced off area in Washington Square Park in Kansas City. Almost a hundred counter-protesters showed up, too. In the over two hours we were there the two groups yelled obscenities and hurled insults at each other, separated by a buffer zone and a considerable presence of Kansas City Police officers.

The anti-Muslim protest was part of nationwide demonstrations apparently organized under the aegis of ACT for America.

The KC Muslim Civic Initiative issued the following statement:

There is an ugly tide of hate rising against American Muslims on June 10, 2017. The march “Against Sharia Law and for Human Rights,” organized by ACT for America is the antithesis of the American democratic values that they claim to uphold.

The title of the march is an oxymoron because sharia law entails human rights. The march’s premise and leaders demonstrate a deep level of misinformation about sharia law, but Muslims are not responsible for clarifying their misinformation.

Such rallies fuel hate and sustain divisions between racial, ethnic and religious communities in the US. The Muslim Civic Initiative (MCI) of Kansas City condemns such rallies that spread hate and misinformation. However, we will not be participating in the counter-protest because we do not want our communities to face offensive messages and further anger and hostility between our communities. Below is our response to this rally organized by ACT for America:

To some of us at MCI, our faith is that of empowering women and upholding justice. The first act of empowering women and protecting children in Islam has been to stop female infanticide. Some dwell on the veil and see it as a symbol of oppression, while practicing Muslims perceive it as a tool of liberation and protection.

American Muslims, like many Muslims around the world, strongly condemn terrorism, and our communities are often the first scarred by violence. Islam is a faith of peace and justice. The majority of American Muslims embody those Islamic and American values in their daily lives. However, with respect to the TSA and FBI, stopping terrorism is not in their hands. It’s up to us to demand from our government to stop aiding military regimes abroad and militarizing their social policies under the guise of humanitarian aid. We call on our allies to unite and bridge the division that is being created at home. We also stand against this division because it enables the exploitation of resources and the severe loss of human life and dignity at all levels in the Muslim world.

It is sad to learn about Brigitte Gabriel’s early life. Instead of choosing to fight the same structural forces that made her experience war and violence in the first place, she beats the war drums of revenge and hatred. Brigitte, we see you and we love you, even if you want to enable killing our communities and feed into the war machine.

We thank our allies for seeing us for who we are, showing up, standing up and relay their message that:
Islamophobia cannot be justified.
Fear will not be manufactured.
Fascism will not be enabled.

American Muslims are an integral part that makes this country great. We love this country and love always prevails.

Statement issued by the Muslim Civic Initiative of Kansas City

The Muslim Civic Initiative is a direct action group dedicated to organizing and empowering the 30,000 Muslim Americans in the Kansas City metro area to be civically engaged.

Kansas City area Muslim organizations did not participate in the counter-protest, choosing instead to organize a rally and meal this evening.

What it was all about.

Resist hatred. An animated conversation.

Taunting counter-protesters.

One of at least two drones flying over Washington Square Park.

Counter-protesters.

Addressing counter-protesters.

An earlier speaker at the counter-protest warned the crowd to be aware, as a matter of personal safety, that there were sneaky and tricky individuals around the park taking pictures in the crowd. Seriously? There were a number of people including us and at least one freelancer with still cameras, in a addition to two different television network local affiliate camera crews covering the protests. Not to mention all the people with smart phone cameras taking photos and videos every which way.

The ACLU had a number of observers in the park actively monitoring the protests.

A trio from the Anti-Muslim group walking through the counter-protest area.

A counter-protester.

Facing counter-protesters taunting them across Main.

Ready to react.

During one of several long lulls of activity one of the television network local affiliate reporters engaged us in conversation, inquiring if we had covered any other protests like this with a similar lack of activity.

The counter-protesters (from a number of different groups) didn’t screen entrance to their area of the park, admittedly because there were no barriers to outside access, only yellow tape blocking off the buffer between them and the anti-Muslim protesters. The anti-Muslim protesters’ area was surrounded by barricades. They would not allow us access to their area. Interestingly, a trio of anti-Muslim protesters marched through the counter-protest area with an ACLU observer hovering nearby.

After that display a number of counter-protesters marched around the taped off buffer area across to Main and faced the anti-Muslim group across the street, chanting and exchanging insults. As we were photographing the counter-protesters one and then a number, without any sense of irony, took issue with us doing so. Think about that for a minute. After a testy exchange we walked away. Two hours and over a thousand stills were enough.