The largest anti-Muslim group in the US is cancelling dozens of planned rallies having witnessed the number of anti-right wing protesters who gathered in Boston to demonstrate against white nationalists.
ACT for America was scheduled to hold 67 rallies in 36 states on September 9 to show its support for the “common sense America First” policies proposed by Donald Trump. The group claims the policies “prioritise real protection over political correctness, and celebrate American exceptionalism”.
But after thousands of people turned out to protest against white nationalism and white supremacy in Boston last weekend – a show of strength that led the organisers of the so-called free speech rally to cut short the event – ACT has said it is calling off its own rallies and will hold an online day of action instead.
ACT, whose leader Brigitte Gabriel whose long issued statements denouncing Islam and claiming devout Muslims cannot be “loyal Americans”, announced its decision in the aftermath of neo-Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville that left one young woman dead and up to 20 people injured.
While there was violence committed by both the white supremacists and their opponents, most reports suggest the worst of the aggression was committed by the white supremacists, who had marched through the Virginia college town with semi-automatic weapons and tactical gear.
Donald Trump found himself at the centre of controversy after saying there was “blame on many sides” and defended some of those protesting over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.
A 20-year-old man from Ohio, who was said to have been an admirer of Adolf Hitler, has been charged with murder, after he allegedly drove his car into a group of people. A 32-year-old paralegal, Heather Heyer, was killed.
Yet ACT said it was cancelling the events because of the purported threat of violence from anti-right protesters.
“ACT for America is deeply saddened that in today’s divisive climate, citizens cannot peacefully express their opinion without risk of physical harm from terror groups domestic and international,” it said in a statement, first reported by Breitbart News.
“In recent weeks, extremist and radical organisations in the United States and abroad have overrun peaceful events in order to advance their own agendas, and in many cases, violence has been the result.”
The group did not immediately respond to inquiries. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an Alabama-based research group that monitors extremism, said since ACT’s founding it had “grown into far and away the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America”.
It said that ACT had worked “to advance anti-Muslim legislation at the local and federal level while flooding the American public with wild hate speech demonising Muslims”.
The group quoted a comment made by Ms Gabriel in 2015, in which she said: “Europe will no longer be Europe by 2050. Europe has already become Eurabia. Europe is Eurabia right now.”