The organized nativist movement continues to politicize current events in order to push its agenda in attempts to sway public opinion. The Aug. 17 American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) rally held in New York City’s Union Square was no exception.
AFDI’s leaders, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, framed their rally as supportive of Israel and “minorities prosecuted under Islamic rule.” As the event unfolded, though, the day was just another manufactured context wherein which the duo sought to vilify Muslims.
For starters, the stage was decorated in various anti-Muslim advertisements that AFDI works to place in public transit and bus systems throughout the country. This included their flagship ad equating Muslims to savages and more recent ads that conflate Islam with anti-Semitism. From there, Geller and Spencer used the Israeli conflict to peddle conspiracy theories about the threat of “global jihad” and its aims for world domination.
A stage set for extremism
As has always been the case, nativist groups attract extremist voices to their rallies — because they’re extremists. Unsurprisingly, one of the featured speakers this past Sunday was controversial New York assemblyman Dov Hikind. Hikind has a well-documented history of Islamophobia, supporting unwarranted surveillance on Muslim communities, and having ties to the Jewish Defense League, a domestic terrorist organization as recognized by the FBI.
Dwindling support and media coverage
Following the event, Geller took to her blog to express frustration at the lack of media coverage the rally garnered.
Aside from a local news affiliate, one of the only mainstream media outlets to report on her event was the Huffington Post. Geller, who said the publication “pimps” for radical Muslim terrorists, was anything but enthused by this:
“The whole point of the Huffington Post covering this rally was to mock, smear, and destroy anyone associated with this issue,” she wrote. “This is not coverage, this is Islamic propaganda.”
The Post set the record straight about Geller’s claim of thousands in attendance, counting only about 150 protestors present. This lack of national attention was a testament to Geller’s perhaps waning influence when compared to previous rallies behind which she’s proven a pivotal organizer.
Summer is coming to an end, but Geller and Spencer’s daily attempts to vilify and to marginalize Muslim communities is sure to drudge on. With that, we will continue to expose their bigotry, along with their anti-immigrant counterparts, and show their rallies and gatherings for what they are: manifestations of their hate-filled agendas.