CHICAGO -- Two competing rallies squared off in downtown Chicago as marches against Islamic law took place in dozens of locations across the U.S. Saturday.
The day started with the pro-Muslim and pro-immigrant group chanting for equality while holding anti-Trump signs at Wacker and Wabash, directly across from Trump Tower. Soon, dozens of anti-Sharia law activists started their own rally across the street, protesting what they say are certain aspects of the religious law forming part of the Islamic tradition.
There was a heavy police presence on either side of the street, both on foot and on bike patrol to keep the peace, with each side pushing its own agenda. Then the two groups merged, with both sides eventually sharing the same street corner, but not the same ideas. There was a lot of shouting and chanting and even a few minor confrontations between the two sides, but police quickly moved in to prevent the tensions from escalating.
Demonstrators at small but raucous gatherings around the country Saturday raised the specter that extremist interpretations of Islamic law might somehow spread across the U.S., but many of the rallies drew even more boisterous counter-protests by people who called such fears unfounded.
The rallies were organized by ACT for America, which claims Islamic law is incompatible with Western democracy. The organization said it opposes discrimination and supports the rights of those subject to Shariah. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, calls it the largest American anti-Muslim group.
The marches also come amid a rise in reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the U.S., including arson attacks and vandalism at mosques, harassment of women wearing Muslim head coverings and bullying of Muslim schoolchildren. Scholars say there's little to no threat to U.S. democracy from Islamic law.