SEATTLE – The Seattle Police Department said on Friday that officers will be ready for whatever happens during a pair of city-permitted protests planned for Saturday morning.
One of the demonstrations is billed as an anti-Sharia law march and it’s permitted for the steps of City Hall.
Sharia is the proper name of Islamic law based on the Quran.
The other rally is a counter demonstration declaring solidarity with Seattle’s Muslim community; it’s permitted for a nearby park.
Violence in Portland forced the cancellation of an anti-Sharia protest there, so organizers vowed to hold it in Seattle instead.
The police department said they are upping the number of officers to monitor both of Saturday’s planned demonstrations.
But some folks from both groups told Q13 News they worry the rhetoric could get out of hand.
“We try to stand together in any way we can,” said the Rev. Mike Denton.
Denton and other leaders of faith spent Friday passing out fliers near where Saturday’s planned anti-Sharia law protest is expected to draw dozens of demonstrators.
They worry the organizers of the protests will fan the flames of intolerance.
“Saying that faithful Muslims can’t be a good American, saying faithful Muslims aren’t good participants in a civilized society, we’re hearing those messages and obviously those are very concerning,” said Denton.
“Is your march anti-Muslim?” Q13 News reporter Steve Kiggins asked of the anti-Sharia law protest organizer, Anthony Parish.
“No it’s not. It’s anti-Sharia,” said Parish. “There’s a difference, you can separate Sharia from Muslim.”
Parish said his protest will try to educate people on what he describes as a culture incompatible with America’s values.
“Let’s try to keep this peaceful, that’s what I’m promoting out here,” he said. “We’re just out there to get a message across.”
Protests got heated in Portland recently, but Parish insisted his demonstration in Seattle won’t turn violent.
“Some of the people protesting us are just going to try to shout us down and they’re not willing to listen,” Parish said. “But this is America and everyone is welcome.”
The first demonstration, billed as supporting Seattle’s Muslim community, is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Occidental Square.
Parish’s protest was scheduled to begin an hour later at City Hall, only blocks away.
Seattle police insist they have the experience and manpower to ensure everyone’s voices will be heard, and both demonstrations will be protected.
“Knowing there’s two different viewpoints, our job as police is to make sure that everyone’s constitutional rights are upheld and protected,” said SPD’s Sean Whitcomb.
Seattle’s rally against Sharia law is one of several planned in cities across the country.
Bottom line, police insist both groups will be able to spread their messages but if things turn south, there will be plenty of officers around to keep the peace.