Demonstrators around the country rallied to protest Islamic law, saying it is incompatible with Western democracy. But many of the rallies drew even more raucous counter-protests by people who called such fears unfounded, reports the Associated Press.
The demonstrations were held in more than two dozen US cities, including Seattle, New York and Chicago.
Hundreds of counter-protesters marched through downtown Seattle behind a large sign saying “Seattle stands with our Muslim neighbours.” They marched to City Hall, where dozens of anti-Shariah protesters rallied. Police used tear gas to disperse rowdy demonstrators and arrested three people.
In front of the Trump building in downtown Chicago, about 30 people demonstrated against Islamic law and in favor of President Donald Trump, shouting slogans and holding signs that read “Ban Sharia” and “Sharia abuses women.” About twice as many counter-protesters marshaled across the street.
A similar scene played out in a park near a New York courthouse, where counter-protesters sounded air-horns and banged pots and pans in an effort to silence an anti-Shariah rally. In St. Paul, Minnesota, state troopers arrested about a half-dozen people when scuffles broke out at the close of competing demonstrations at the state Capitol.
The rallies, held in more than two dozen US cities, were organized by ACT for America, which claims Islamic law is incompatible with Western democracy.
The organisation said it opposes discrimination and supports the rights of those subject to Shariah. However, the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks hate groups, calls it the largest American anti-Muslim group.
In Seattle, activists set up an “Ask an American Muslim” booth to give rally participants on either side a chance to speak with a Muslim.
“American Muslims support the American values and freedoms we all cherish,” said Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The marches come amid a rise in reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the US, including arson attacks and vandalism at mosques, harassment of women wearing Muslim head coverings and bullying of Muslim schoolchildren.
In California, small but raucous demonstrations were held in a handful of cities, including San Bernardino, where a husband and wife inspired by the Islamic State group killed 14 people and wounded 22 in a 2015 shooting attack.
Clusters of protesters and counter-protesters gathered on four corners of an intersection at a memorial to the slain, yelling and waving American flags and posters proclaiming various causes. Anti-Islamic law demonstrators marched past the building where the shootings occurred.
About 300 people attended San Bernardino’s rallies. Three were arrested on suspicion of vandalism for smashing windows of two cars, Hards said.