The Ellicott City anti-Muslim rally that wasn't

An anti-Muslim demonstration outside a mosque in Ellicott City planned for Saturday morning failed to materialize when organizers found themselves outnumbered by counterprotesters and Howard County Police.

A small handful of would-be attendees, recognizable from their posts to the event's Facebook page, drove by the Dar al-Taqwa mosque but failed to stop and actually demonstrate, according to mosque President Adnan Khan.

Presumably the demonstrators did not like the odds when they found counterprotesters already on site and outnumbering them by roughly 3-to-1, the whole scene watched closely by police in three cruisers idling nearby.

Had it not been for cops and counterprotesters, however, the event's organizers might have found themselves lonely, given that the mosque is closed Saturday mornings.

Standing outside the house of worship, Khan said the 5,000-member mosque is typically "packed out" for Friday prayers, but was completely empty this day.  

The logistical incompetence and apparent timidity of supporters of the so-called "Global Rally for Humanity" was in stark contrast to their aggressive online rhetoric.

"You see guns on their Facebook pages, a lot of violent imagery," Khan said on Saturday, flanked by private security guards the mosque had hired "just in case."

One photo of rally organizer Mike White showed him astride a motorcycle, a pump shotgun propped on his hip, with the caption "Hunting Muslims."

White's posts in late September drew the attention of longtime Baltimore activists Ryan Harvey and Payam (who asked that his last name not be used for this story).

For Payam, White's threats were very personal, having grown up in the area around the mosque and knowing many of its members.

"I just said, 'Yeah, this shit isn’t happening,'" said Payam, describing his reaction to the Facebook event which Harvey had alerted him to.

In addition to the counterprotest organized by Payam, opponents carried out a trolling campaign targeting White through Facebook, his business website, and even his personal cellphone, on which members of the counterprotest left messages Saturday morning when the demonstration failed to launch.

Saturday's event in Ellicott City was supposed to be one of a whole series of demonstrations in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries called for by Jon Ritzheimer, the Arizonan who in May grabbed headlines by organizing 250 "patriots" to protest outside of a mosque in Phoenix. According to Newsweek, more than a dozen of those protesters showed up toting semi-automatic weapons and wearing body armor.

Ritzheimer, however, is not exactly a master political organizer, distributing T-shirts reading "Fuck Islam" at May's rally and appearing in internet videos shooting the Qur'an with his daughter's hot-pink hunting rifle.

Standing around chatting with friends at Saturday's non-event, Payam was not sanguine about the threat posed by blow-hards like Ritzheimer and White, regardless of their apparent isolation.

"It starts out small, but it doesn't stay small," said Payam. "We're not giving them any room for growth." 

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