A small group of “anti-Sharia law” protesters gathered on Boston Common on Saturday morning and argued for two hours with a group of counter-protesters carrying signs supporting Muslims and immigrants.
The protest was one of about 30 scheduled across the country by the group ACT for America, which describes itself as a “national security grassroots organization.” The Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as an “extremist group” and the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America.
A man who appeared to be an organizer of the rally and spoke to the crowd and described the fight against Sharia — or Islamic religious law — as a “battle.” A woman who spoke for a long time into a bullhorn warned, “They’re taking over.”
Both declined to give their names or be interviewed. The man said the Globe would “twist everything we say” and threatened to “go to court” if a reporter published anything.
The rally drew about 75 protesters and an equal number of counter-protesters. For the two hours the groups stood on the Common as protesters and counter-protesters mingled with each other, shouting, swearing, laughing derisively, and filming each other.
Though the protesters said they gathered to fight Sharia law, many of the insults they hurled at counter-protesters had to do with LGBTQ issues. The Boston Pride Parade was Saturday, and many supporters were in the area.
Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen, the first Muslim elected to a government post in the state, came to the event in hopes of enlightening people who believe Muslims are all violent.
“What my goal was, is to remind people who are out here saying ‘We are against violence and we think Islam is violent,’ is to give them the real story of what is going on in our mosques and our communities,” Mazen said in an interview.
He said he had invited several people to go to the mosque with him, and at least one accepted.
The event was largely nonviolent, though a shoving match broke out toward the end, and Boston Police moved in and stood between the two groups.