Louisville Metro Police officials say they are monitoring developments in the days leading up to a rally planned for this weekend outside the Islamic Center on River Road.
Organizers of what is being called the “Global Rally for Humanity” said in a recent Facebook post that the event would be “anti-mosque” and celebrate open-carry gun rights.
“It is strongly encouraged to come armed,” says one post on the group’s page.
Other posts include a video of a beheading and multiple posts of news reports detailing crimes allegedly committed by African-Americans. Another is a link to a “White Lives Matter” Facebook group.
Chris Cox, a Florence, Ky., resident, said he wants to attend the rally because he’s afraid Muslims are trying to make people in America “live the Islamic way.”
“They want to change our way of life,” he said. “They’re not going to change my way of life.”
When asked why he feels the need to have guns at the rally, Cox told WFPL: “They’ll chop your hand off, they’ll chop your head off.”
According to the group’s Facebook page, the rally is a response to a march planned by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.
A similar rally is set for outside the Islamic Center of Northern Kentucky, and about 20 others are planned across the country. In response, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has issued a security advisory to Islamic centers and mosques for this weekend.
“These kinds of rallies, many of them including armed participants, are spreading,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist groups.
He said the current wave of anti-Muslim demonstrations stems from Pamela Geller’s Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, which was the target of an attack earlier this summer by Islamist militants.
“One danger at these rallies is the kind of hotheaded extremists they tend to attract,” Potok said. “It seems possible that one of these men could actually get into a confrontation that could end in bloodshed.”
He said local residents should be aware of the potential for violence as well as the “baseless hatred they fuel.”
A similar rally in Wisconsin has already been canceled, Potok said. And he expects sparse participation at other planned rallies around the country.
A spokeswoman for Metro Police declined to comment on the rally planned for Louisville, other than to confirm the department is monitoring it.
When WFPL News asked organizers behind the Kentucky rallies for comment, someone going by the name “John E. Rebel” responded via Facebook with a long message saying American culture is “at risk of annihilation” because of Islam.
In Louisville, a counter-rally promoting peace was canceled this week at the request of the Louisville Islamic Center, according to a Facebook post. Representatives of the Islamic Center did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.
The Islamic Center was the target of anti-Islam graffiti and vandalism last month.
Islamic Center officials found red spray-paint on the building’s exterior denouncing the Muslim faith. The next day, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer held an early-morning press conference along with other faith leaders to denounce the vandalism.
In the days after, hundreds of residents from all faiths showed up at the Islamic Center to help paint over the graffiti.