Anti-Muslim activists interested in rubbing shoulders with like-minded individuals at upcoming nationwide “America First” rallies were met with bad news Monday.
ACT for America, one of the country’s largest anti-Muslim groups, announced the cancellation of some 67 demonstrations in 36 states out of concern that “violence” could break out at those events. The organization shared the news with Breitbart that it would instead hold an online “Day of ACTion” for supporters.
“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,” the organization said in a statement provided to Breitbart. “In recent weeks, extremist and radical organizations 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. Given the security issues of organizing public events, the responsible decision is to deny this opportunity to Neo-Nazis, Antifa, the KKK, and ISIS inspired individuals and groups.”
Although it didn’t mention any specific event by name, the statement appeared to reference the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where one counter-protester was killed and at least 19 others injured in a car attack. Another event organized in Boston by the so-called “alt-right,” the broader and loosely affiliated group of racists, misogynists and anti-Semites, was largely peaceful, with an estimated 40,000 counter-protesters hugely outnumbering the rally attendees.
In a belated response Tuesday afternoon, ACT spokesperson Brian Glicklich told TPM that the cancellations were not “based on any single event.”
Instead, the decision was related to “the rapidly evolving landscape of threats and harassment directed at public free speech rallies,” Glicklich said. “We cannot justify putting our supporters in that kind of environment.”
The “America First” rallies were originally billed as opportunities for supporters of President Donald Trump to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks, express support for law enforcement and promote “real protection over political correctness” in the fight against the Islamic State terror group. ACT has held similar rallies before, including June protests against what they see as the threat of “creeping” Shariah law. Brigitte Gabriel, who founded the group, is a vocal Trump supporter who in March shared photographs of herself at the White House that she said were taken during a meeting there.
The Southern Poverty Law Center designates ACT as a hate group due to its virulent rhetoric about Muslims and Islam.
Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for the anti-Muslim bigotry and civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, said in a statement that by canceling the rallies “ACT is essentially acknowledging that these types of events cause and incite violence.”
“The reality is that ACT for America’s supporters are no different than those who marched in and supported the Charlottesville events,” Ahussain continued.
City officials in some locations where events were planned had already pushed back against ACT, associating the organization with other far-right extremist groups.
“My message to them is ‘We don’t want you here,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told local ABC affiliate WISN this week. “We don’t want any Nazi groups here, any white supremacist or ‘alt-right’ groups who are coming because this is a city of inclusion. It’s not a city of exclusion, and it’s not a city of white supremacy so go somewhere else and bother the people there.”
Barrett’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on the rallies’ cancelation.
Resistance to the planned ACT rallies is just one aspect of the mass pushback against far-right and extremist groups after Charlottesville. Universities have canceled white nationalist events and major technology companies have booted them off their platforms.
Last week, the right-wing leaders of demonstrations organized to protest Google’s firing of James Damore, a male employee who wrote a memo arguing that women were biologically unfit for technical positions at the company, canceled events at Google facilities on account of what they said were “credible threats from known Alt Left terrorist groups.”
This post has been updated.