ACT for America has a prejudice problem. Founder Brigitte Gabriel believes that, “America is at stage two Islamic Cancer.” She also argues that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim,” a Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States,” and that Arabs “have no soul.”
On June 10, 2017, at a series of rallies across the U.S. ACT tried to pivot from Islam being a cancer to the more politically-correct notion that they want to protect Muslims. This effort failed both at the rallies, which ended up attracting a number of white supremacists and anti-government militias, and after June 10.
ACT for America is worried about their public image. The group fired a chapter head for not having wisdom in the way he advertised an event intended to teach people how to push back against building mosques. They invited an anti-government militia to provide security at the rallies, but asked that group to take advantage of concealed carry laws so the rallies did not present “too militaristic an image.” ACT canceled a previously sanctioned rally in Arkansas after the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that the organizer was a neo-Nazi.
In an email attributed to Brigitte Gabriel dated 2/27/2017, the group leader explained that they “let go” of their San Antonio chapter head because he “advertised an ACT for America chapter meeting to teach people about how they can push back against building houses of worship (in this case mosques)…” Gabriel added, “…he should have had wisdom in the way he advertised.” This lack of wisdom in advertising was an issue because “elected officials will not work with an organization trying to stop mosques in America. Period.”
The Oath Keepers, an anti-government group ACT organizers invited to provide security for the June 10 rallies issued a notice to their members saying, “ACT for America encourages our well trained and vetted members/security teams to come armed wherever you can do so legally, but has specifically asked that volunteer security carry concealed rather than open-carry, even where open-carry is legal. They prefer this so their events do not present too militaristic an image.”
On June 8, ACT for America issued a statement reading, in part, “ACT for America cancelled its June 10th ‘March Against Sharia, March for Human Rights’ event in [Batesville] Arkansas when we became aware that the organizer is associated with white supremacist groups. This is against all of our values.” This disavowal came after the Southern Poverty Law Center publicized that the organizer was “neo-Nazi Billy Roper” who had “promoted the event on Stormfront, the neo-Nazi message board founded by former Klan leader Don Black.” ACT canceled the planned Portland, Oregon rally after a white supremacist murdered two men who tried to intervene as he verbally abused two women, one of whom was Muslim.
ACT’s effort to assert they care about Muslims was undermined by a flyer on their own letter head proclaiming “There has been a ban on Islam since 1952” that was distributed at a sanctioned rally in Calif. A rally speaker in Texas and a sign in New York suggested that Muslims commit bestiality. Rallies included Islamophobic rhetoric such as “Islam is the problem,” “I want the Quran burned” and “End all Islamic Immigration.”
"There has been a ban on Islam since 1952,” proclaimed a flyer bearing the ACT for America logo that was distributed at the rally in Santa Clara, Calif. This imaginary ban is an internet rumor that holds that all Muslims are barred from the United States by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. That law bars anyone from entry who “belongs to an organization seeking to overthrow the government of the United States by ‘force, violence, or other unconstitutional means.”
The flyer also listed a number of nonexistent verses from the Quran. For example, it quoted “1:30,” i.e. the 30th verse of the first chapter of the Quran. In fact, the first chapter consists of only 7 verses. It also quoted “11:626,” the 626th verse of the 11th chapter. Again, the 11th chapter of the Quran consists of only 123 verses. The flyer stated that “7:97” instructed the murder of Jews, whereas in fact, the verse doesn’t even mention people of the Jewish faith. The same applied to its misquoting of “9:69” which spoke of a completely different subject than what was claimed on the flyer. Other falsehoods and errors in ACT’s document may be addressed in future articles.
Religion News Service reported of the Richardson, Texas rally, “If Muslims have their way, said the man with the megaphone, there will be no justice for America’s goats. ‘Why do Muslims rape their goats so much?’ Jim Gilles asked his fellow protesters gathered Saturday (June 10) outside one of the largest Islamic worship centers in the Dallas area. ‘It’s because they’re perverted, demonic, sex-crazed … sick perverts.’” Religious News Service added, “Gilles, for example, carried a large placard that said, ‘Every real Muslim is a Jihadist!’”
The Dallas Observer also published a photo of the ACT rally participants that included a woman holding a sign reading “Islam is the problem” and a man wearing a shirt reading “Allah is Satan.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that the ACT rally in that city split into two factions, one of which “wanted to distance themselves from what they said was a more ‘radical’ faction –protesters gathered near the Heald Square Monument, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric was met with anger and frustration by counter-protesters.”
Stephanie Potts, who supported the ACT rally in Denver, said, ““But [the left] have never picked up a Quran and they don’t understand that Islam is not about multiculturalism.”
At the Harrisburg, Penn. ACT rally Vanguard America spokesperson Francisco Rivera told reporters, “I don’t believe in having Muslims in the United States. Their culture is incompatible with ours.”
In Kansas City, ACT rally supporter Robert Burns told the Kansas City Star, “Stop pretending Islam is a religion; it’s a political movement.” He added, “I want the Qur’an banned. I want the mosques closed. That’s where this stuff is taught, in the mosques.”
The Washington Post reported that in New York City “Pawl Bazile, a member of the right-wing Proud Boys group” said, “We understand what Islam is, and we say ‘no.’” A rally participant holding a sign that read, “No more Muslims” was recorded saying, “They are calling it Sharia law. I am sure most of these people inside understand it is Muslims. Muslims are the problem. We can’t have more of them in the country.” Also pictured at ACTs New York rally was a sign with, among other vulgar imagery, a man copulating with a goat with Arabic text over it.
Orlando, Fla. ACT rally supporter James Murphy had stickers on his vehicle, which he parked beside the event , such as ““ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS DEPORT THEM ALL.” An Identity Evropa banner at the rally called for an “End to Islamic Immigration.”
Roseville, Calif. ACT rally participant Nicole Miller was reported to say of those who practice Islam “They cannot assimilate into the American culture.” According to TRT World, Seattle, Wash. ACT supporter Aaron Bassford said, "I don't believe Islam can peacefully co-exist with the Constitution.”
According to the Los Angeles Times “Islam is not American” was among the signs ACT rally supporters waved in San Bernardino, Calif. “Islam is un-American” and “End Muslim Immigration” were among the signs the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported at the ACT rally in St. Paul, Minn. The San Diego Union Tribune posted video of a Oceanside, Calif. ACT rally supporter wearing a t-shirt the said, “Everything I need to know about Islam I learned on 9/11.”
CBS San Francisco showed video of a Santa Clara, Calif. ACT demonstrator identified only as “Mary,” saying “There is no moderate Muslim. They are here to kill, steal and destroy America.”
The marches drew at best hundreds of supporters but most frequently under a hundred. This turnout was often bolstered by white supremacist and anti-government groups including: the Oath Keepers, Identity Evorpa and Vanguard America.
[Note: The Southern Poverty Law Center has extensive details of white supremacist and anti-government groups participating in ACT rallies here.]
Rallies in Texas, Missouri, Arizona, North Carolina and Colorado drew hundreds. According to the Dallas Morning News, “Hundreds gathered around the Islamic Association of North Texas.” The report went on to note, “The rally was peaceful, although several protesters were armed with rifles — even as children filed into the mosque.” Khalid Y. Hamideh, spokesperson for the Islamic Association, said, "Schoolchildren were coming to weekend school facing grown men in army fatigues with automatic assault rifles.”
“Each side boasted about 150-to-175 people,” according to the Denver Post. In Kansas City, Missouri, the Kansas City Star reported “two groups of close to 100 protestors each.” Arizona Central reported, “more than 100 people” at the Phoenix, Arizona ACT rally. Peter Bokin, who coordinated the Raleigh, N.C. rally “publicly thanked Identity Evropa, a group founded last year that openly espouses white supremacy.” The News Observer reported “around 100 people” attended the Raleigh ACT rally.
The Sacramento Bee reported “more than 300 people” attended the ACT rally in Roseville, Cailf. “More than 200” joined the ACT San Bernardino, Calif. rally. “Some 200 people gathered,” in South Field, Mich. according to the Detroit News.
Inside the Minnesota state capitol in St. Paul “about 100 people gathered” to support the ACT rally, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The paper also noted that one man with the ACT rally, “flashed ‘OK’ symbols with his hands, a gesture associated with the alt-right movement, which has views often coinciding with white supremacy.”
At the state capitol in Austin, Texas, the ACT rally generated a “few dozen” supporters, including Oath Keepers armed with rifles. In Indianapolis, Ind. “Several dozen” ACT supporters faced “30 counter-protestors.” Among the ACT supporters were “flag holders for the white nationalist group Identity Evropa.” According to the Washington Post Among the “few dozen” supporters of the ACT rally in New York City were “a dozen members of Identity Evropa, which seeks a whites-only state.” Also at the New York City rally a man with a German Republic Imperial War Flag chanted “blood & soil,” a fascist slogan. The San Francisco Chronicle reported a “few dozen” people supporting ACT in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Associated Press reported “several dozen” ACT supporters in Seattle, Wash. and “[h]undreds of counter-protestors.
In Atlanta, Fox News reported “at least 20 people including a Republican candidate for Georgia governor” at the ACT rally. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported the attendance of members of the “Georgia Security Force III% militia.”
“The [Boston] rally drew about 75 protesters and an equal number of counter-protesters,” according to the Boston Globe.
According to the Associated Press, “about 30 people” joined the ACT rally in Chicago and two times that number opposed them.
The San Diego Union Tribune reported that at its peak the ACT rally in Oceanside, Calif. had “about 50 participants” and a counter rally “was roughly 70 people.” ACT was joined by “Latinas for Trump and Republican Women of Oceanside.”
NPR reported that in Harrisburg, Penn. “about 60 ‘anti-Sharia’ protestors were separated from the same number of counter protestors.” Supporting the ACT rally were members of Vanguard America, “a group that has claimed credit for white nationalist posters on college campuses.” Also on hand, “Nearly a dozen men carrying sidearms belonging to the anti-government Oath Keepers were on hand, invited by ACT to provide security.” Men wearing Soldiers of Odin jackets were also photographed taking part.
In Virginia Beach, Va., the city where ACT is headquartered, “40 people gathered” at the march site. “At about 10 a.m., 30 ACT for America protesters gathered,” in Syracuse, N.Y. according to Syracuse.com. They were confronted by about 100 counterprotestors. The Wichita Eagle reported about 35 participants in the Wichita, Kan. ACT rally.
According to the Washington Post, ACT “rally crowds of a few dozen in many cities [were] outnumbered almost 10 to 1 by counter-demonstrators.”
The messaging pivot did not stick. In the days immediately following the rallies, ACT South Dakota warned about the “global Islamic movement.” Brigitte Gabriel promoted an article alleging “Islam in its original and classic forms has everything to do with today's radicals and the violence they commit.” Gabriel also retweeted an article headlined, “Michigan: Nearly ½ candidates for Dearborn city positions are ‘Arabs’.”
Right after the marches with ACT’s chapter in South Dakota hosted an event warning of “threat of the global Islamic movement.”
Five days after the March, Gabriel shared the headline, “Michigan: Nearly ½ candidates for Dearborn city positions are ‘Arabs’.”
Six days after the rallies, Gabriel tweeted a link to a Gatestone Institute article that claimed, “Flatly, Islam in its original and classic forms has everything to do with today's radicals and the violence they commit.” The articles author also asserted, “Islam has been at war with Europe since the seventh century.”
This website is a project of CAIR's Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.