The ex-Marine who organized an anti-Muslim rally outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix Friday evening said he’s going into hiding after receiving several death threats.
“This is proof tyranny is in America,” said Jon Ritzheimer, revealing he’s come under siege since taking to Facebook to organize the event.
Up to 500 protesters gathered in 100-degree heat — some clutching assault rifles, American flags and placards — in the latest flashpoint in the U.S. anti-Islam movement.
Ritzheimer planned the protest, billed as “Freedom of Speech Rally,” in response to an ISIS-inspired attack outside a controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest May 3 in Texas.
Two gunmen were shot dead by SWAT team members as they attempted to storm the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, an event organized by anti-Islamic activist Pamela Geller.
But now Ritzheimer claims he’s been targeted by terrorists.
“I’m having to sell my house. My family is going into hiding,” an armed Ritzheimer, flanked by burly men wearing “F— Islam!” T-shirts, told reporters at the rally. “They’re calling for lone wolves to behead me. That’s terrorism right here in America.”
The latest rally also included a Prophet Muhammad cartoon drawing contest, which drew plenty of people protesting the protest by holding signs with messages like “Love not hate” and “Stop the hate.”
Arizona is an open carry state. Several people, many wearing fatigues, showed up to the rally with assault rifles.
The event began at 6:15 p.m. and anti-rally demonstrators quickly poured in.
Usama Shami, the president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, hugged a Christian pastor from a nearby church who came in support.
The two sides faced off before protesters were separated with yellow tape and police in riot gear.
The protest, despite instances of hate speech and stepping on the Koran, was peaceful. Phoenix police made no arrests.
“I hope more patriots take a stand,”Ritzheimer said.