The organizer of an anti-Muslim rally held last month outside of a Phoenix mosque told TPM on Wednesday that his mom received a warning from one of the most notorious activists in the game after the whole thing blew up in her son’s face.
Jon Ritzheimer, a self-described Oath Keeper and former Marine from Arizona, said in an interview that he had not personally spoken to prominent anti-Muslim activist Pam Geller despite having organized his own rally in solidarity with her. But, he said, his mom had gotten in touch with Geller.
“My mother reached out to her,” Ritzheimer told TPM. He said Geller “just talked about how the media is. They twist things, and that’s exactly what happened with me.”
When asked whether Geller had given his mother any other advice, Ritzheimer replied: “No. No advice.”
Geller held a “draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in early May in Garland, Texas that was disrupted by two gunmen who were alleged Islamic State sympathizers. The men, at least one of whom had reportedly attended the Phoenix mosque, were killed by security outside of the Texas event.
Ritzheimer organized his own rally on May 29 at the Phoenix mosque in support of the one in Texas. The Arizona rally attracted hundreds of people, including many who opposed Ritzheimer. He has since said he was the target of threats and hackers.
Despite his turmoil, Ritzheimer told TPM he doesn’t expect Geller to help him out.
“She’s a busy woman,” Ritzheimer said. “And she’s just, she’s got a lot going on. There was an assassination attempt on Pam Geller so I don’t — I don’t expect anything from her.”
Ritzheimer has posted details on social media about how his “life has been turned upside down.” This week he said he is trying to sell his motorcycle “for obvious reasons” because he needs “every penny I can get to buy more guns, etc.”
Ritzheimer talked to TPM about why he wore a shirt that said “Fuck Islam!” on it during the rally. He said as an atheist, he would also wear a shirt that said “Fuck Christianity.”
“Yeah? I have no problem, I — no problem wearing that,” Ritzheimer said. “The only thing is, I’m not, they’re not, if I wore an ‘F Christianity’ shirt, there’s peop— I mean, they’re not gonna be calling for my head. You gotta look at what’s going on around the globe.”
Ritzheimer also talked about a quote, sometimes attributed to Mother Teresa, about refusing to attend anti-war rallies but gladly attending pro-peace rallies.
He said he was “subconsciously” inspired to call his event a “pro-freedom of speech” rally rather than an “anti-Islam” rally because of that.
“Yeah, I mean it’s, I would say I did, I did it subconsciously,” Ritzheimer said. “It’s a quote that my mother always told me growing up and stuff, so. And I’m, I’m careful with how I word things and I don’t want to, I’m not looking to stir up the wrong crowd.”
Ritzheimer also had advice for people wanting to organize their own “freedom of speech” rallies.
“Make a fake, their own fake Facebook account — a John Doe — and set the event up like that,” he said. “You don’t want this spotlight. I didn’t, I — this is not what I intended. I don’t like the spotlight. It’s hot and it burns.”