Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said in a tweet he is asking the Justice Department to launch an investigation about the legalities of a protest at a Phoenix mosque that included the participation of gun-carrying activists.
But as some social media posters were quick to point out: Investigate them for what – legally protesting?
Ellison in a tweet wrote: “@RepAndreCarson and I are asking the Obama Administration to investigate the armed rally at Phoenix mosque.”
A couple Twitter users were quick to comment.
“Investigate what? The counter-protest already took care of that problem. Free speech does its own plumbing,” wrote one.
And another: “Investigate them for legally protesting?”
The protest Ellison was referring to occurred at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix in late May, held in part to show solidarity with the “Draw Muhammad” contest in Texas. Approximately 250 protesters carrying American flags and depictions of the Prophet Muhammad assembled outside of the mosque that had previously been attended by the two gunmen from Phoenix who opened gunfire on the “Draw Muhammad” event. Various media outlets described the protest as heated to the point where police had to physically separate Muslims and rally participants, some of whom were armed.
Protest organizers, however, said the First Amendment guarantees them the right to rally, and police at the scene didn’t dispute that fact. Still, Ellison and Carson wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and asked for intervention.
They wrote, Twitchy reported: “These demonstrators argue that they are exercising their First Amendment rights. What they fail to understand is that First Amendment rights are not absolute: they are limited to protect the safety and rights of others.”
One big problem with the protest is that some participants carried weapons, they wrote.
“The presence of assault weapons coupled with deep seeded bigotry and hate speech creates a clear and present danger to worshippers and threatens lawless action,” the letter stated. “The activity of these armed anti-Muslim demonstrators comes at a time when anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise. As anti-Muslim violence and bigotry sweep across the country, we must do everything we can to prevent further tragedy and discrimination.”
Ellison, from Minnesota, was the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives.