BLOG: Anti-Sharia, pro-Muslim groups clash in mostly peaceful Seattle protests

KING 5's Dan Cassuto and Jenna Hanchard report.

Two rallies - one anti Islamic law and one pro Muslim - converged outside Seattle City Hall Plaza Saturday, chanting and rallying for their conflicting messages.

Hundreds of demonstrators supporting Muslims marched through downtown in the morning to confront a few dozen people who rallied outside City Hall claiming Sharia is incompatible with Western freedoms. 

Pro Muslim demonstrators waved signs that said "We stand with our Muslim neighbors" while vocalizing their message of support through speeches, chants, drumming and even rapping. The activists also set up an "Ask an American Muslim" booth where attendees could meet and learn about their Muslim neighbors.

The anti Sharia demonstrators did the same, holding their signs and delivering their message on loudspeakers.

"We are not anti-Muslim. We are anti-radical Islam," said an anti-Sharia speaker.

"No ban, no wall," chanted pro Muslim supporters.

Officers used fencing and bicycle officers to keep the opposing groups separate during the loud but mostly peaceful protests. After several hours with no major incidents, police officers stepped in and dispersed the crowd. 

Part of the original group of the Muslim supporters marched back to Occidental Square in Pioneer Square, where the speeches continued.  At one point the scene became chaotic and police pepper sprayed a group of people after a fight broke out. Two men and a woman people were arrested and booked for obstructing, say police.

PHOTOS: Groups rally for Muslims, against Sharia law, in opposing protests


Marches against Islamic law have drawn larger counter-rallies in other U.S. cities.  In New York and Chicago, a few dozen anti-Sharia demonstrators were also outnumbered by counter-protesters.

Organizers for ACT for America are trying to take a stand against Sharia, which form part of the Islamic tradition, and are calling it incompatible with the Constitution and American values.  The group held anti-Sharia rallies in more than two dozen cities Saturday; in New York and Chicago, a few dozen anti-Shari demonstrators were also outnumbered by counter-protesters.

Related: Rallies against Islamic law draw counter-protests across U.S.

ACT for America said it supports the rights of those subject to Shariah law and opposes discrimination. But the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, calls it the largest American anti-Muslim organization. Scholars say there's little to no threat to U.S. democracy from Islamic law.

The event was originally scheduled for Portland, but organizers said on Facebook they were moving it to Seattle. They planned to hold it at Victor Steinbrueck Park, but permitting issues moved them to Seattle City Hall on Wednesday. 

The other march, Seattle Stands with our Muslim Neighbors, counteracted the Seattle ACT for America protest, which they call a recognized Islamophobic hate group. Organizers say they hope to bring the community together in solidarity with Muslims.

KING 5 had crews at both protests, providing updates throughout the day:

KING 5's Liza Javier,  Bryce Newberry and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2017 KING-TV


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