Government & Politics

Protesters confront each other in KC: ‘March Against Sharia’ rally rebuked as anti-Muslim

Cordoned off from one another for security and surrounded by at least 20 Kansas City police officers, some on horseback, two groups of close to 100 protestors each went head-to-head Saturday afternoon, hurling insult over the issue of Muslims in America.

On one side were supporters of the organization ACT for America, which gathered at Washington Square Park north of Crown Center for what they titled a “March Against Sharia,” part of similar events being held in 26 other cities in 23 states.

The group — waving American flags, holding placards and signs such as “Sharia Law Authorizes Honor Killings, Mutilation of Girls’ Genitals” — claims its goal was to raise awareness of what it sees as the specter of anti-American violence in Sharia Law, a strict legal or philosophical code derived from Islamic scripture.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the group as the largest, grassroots anti-Muslim group in the United States whose modus operandi is to act as if it is protecting civil rights while promoting an anti-Muslim, Islamophobic ideology.

Counter protesters on Saturday wore red and waved anti-fascist as well as communist flags bearing the hammer and sickle. They called those from ACT for America “fascist,” and yelled “Hey, Hey, ho, ho, fascism has got to go!” They represented a number of groups, including a chapter of the Missouri Green Party.

“When I was a kid, I leaned about the horrors of Nazis rising to power in Central Europe and Germany and thought, why didn’t good people stand up?” counter protester Nathan Kline, 49, of Kansas City said.

“Good people did stand up, but just not enough. I promised that any time that kind of nationalist, racist, fascist ideology would stand up in my community, I would stand up and say no.”

“Let’s be clear, this is not about Sharia,” said Alison Baldress, 28, of Kansas City, with the Kansas City Grass Roots Network. “ACT for America is the largest anti-Muslim grassroots network in America and they are promoting Islamophobia across the board... We are going to actively resist this rise of Islamophobia until we win.”

Bob Burns, the KC chapter leader of ACT for America, called the anti-Muslim charge “absolutely nonsense” and an insult tossed by the opposition to discredit legitimate views.

“We’re here today to specifically resist the application of Sharia law, which is (for) child marriage, it’s for honor killing, it’s for genital mutilation,” said Burns, 76, of Blue Springs. He called such actions “unAmerican” and said he wants to guard against Sharia law taking root in the United States.

“They’re murders. They’re terrorists, They’re pedophiles. And they’re here,” protestor Doug Menteer, 66, of Turney, Mo., said.

“And this is not Islamophobia,” Burns said, “except to the degree that if they get what they want. They want to take over this country — literally to take over this country by the year 2050.…That is their game plan and how they intend to do it. When they do that, they want Sharia law applied to the whole country. You may not get it, but your kids and your grandkids are going to have a world of hurt.”

Robert Burns, 70, of Des Moines and no relation to the chapter’s leader, professed his belief that Islam is dangerous precisely because it is not just a religion.

“Stop pretending Islam is a religion; it’s a political movement,” he said.

Asked what he would like to see happen in a country where the Constitution protects both religious and political freedoms, he said:

“I want the Qur’an banned. I want the mosques closed. That’s where this stuff is taught, in the mosques.”

Eric Adler: 816-234-4431, @eadler