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Protest against anti-Islam speaker draws more than 100 in …

Point Fosdick Drive along Gig Harbor’s Uptown is well known to locals as a busy part of town, with business to the nearby Safeway and Uptown Gig Harbor shopping center drawing traffic that often deters residential traffic who choose side streets and backroads whenever possible.

But the busy street was a destination for locals and visitors alike Friday evening as they joined together to protest a scheduled speech by a noted anti-Islam proponent, Heidi Mund, in an event hosted by the Tacoma Narrows Tea Party at the Gig Harbor Pierce County Library.

However, the scheduled meeting was not held, according to a source at the demonstration, who said that a member of the hosting group did not pick up a key from the Gig Harbor Library branch manager prior to the library’s 6 p.m. closure. Several event attendees arrived to find the doors locked and no group leaders present. The meeting had been scheduled to be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m., according to the event calendar on the Pierce County Republican Party website.

Despite the lack of a meeting, the demonstration continued, stretching from the library to 48th Street along Point Fosdick Drive. More than 120 protesters showed their solidarity and support of their neighbors with signs bearing messages such as “Love thy Neighbor,” “Choose Understanding Not Fear” and “No Hate Speech in Gig Harbor.”

This woman, Heidi Mund, has called Muslims ‘people of darkness.’ When rhetoric like that, speech like that, are coming to your doorstep in your home town, we feel we have to stand up and say that’s not what Gig Harbor’s about, that’s not what America’s about and we’re not going to stand for it.

Jim Albrecht, Gig Harbor resident

The biggest message of all, and the motto of the event, was “Love, Not Hate, makes Gig Harbor Great,” and could be seen on signs large and small and heard through the voices of the protesters as they chanted their message to passing motorists, many showing their support in return with honks and cheers from open windows as they passed.

The demonstration of neighborly love and inclusion was the ultimate goal for the event, Jim Albrecht and Lisa Marcus explained Thursday afternoon. The couple are Gig Harbor residents and members of Indivisible Gig Harbor, the organizing group behind the event.

“This woman, Heidi Mund, has called Muslims ‘people of darkness.’ When rhetoric like that, speech like that, are coming to your doorstep in your hometown, we feel we have to stand up and say that’s not what Gig Harbor’s about, that’s not what America’s about and we’re not going to stand for it,” Albrecht said. “You can’t be quiet because you’re afraid it will create tension. There are already people who are feeling the tension.”

We live in a diverse world. I think that communities that are diverse (are), to me, what America is. We have always tried to teach our kids that they live in a much bigger world than this pocket of Gig Harbor and that that is a good thing.

Lisa Marcus, Gig Harbor resident

Showing support for their neighbors and helping to create a community that welcomes and celebrates diversity is important to the couple, both professors at the University of Puget Sound.

“We live in a diverse world. I think that communities that are diverse (are), to me, what America is,” Marcus said. “We have always tried to teach our kids that they live in a much bigger world than this pocket of Gig Harbor, and that that is a good thing.”

Joining the protest Friday were Gig Harbor community members from local schools, businesses, organizations and activist groups. Jeni Woock, Gig Harbor resident and founder of The Citizens for the Preservation of Gig Harbor, lent her support to the protest.

It is important in Gig Harbor that we build bridges not walls. Everyone is welcome in our community and we need to make sure everyone feels welcome and respected.

Jeni Woock, Gig Harbor resident

“It is important in Gig Harbor that we build bridges not walls,” said Woock. “Everyone is welcome in our community and we need to make sure everyone feels welcome and respected.”

Word of the protest spread quickly through social media, drawing fellow activists from Tacoma to Bremerton to Vashon Island.

Karla Rixon, 32, came from Tacoma to join the protest, not only to lend her voice in support of diverse communities but also to stand in opposition to the rise in xenophobia and anti-Islamic sentiment that she has seen on the rise both locally and nationally.

“There are so many people in this community who are devalued by this talk,” she said. “I care about my neighbors.”

There’s so much support. We’re watching people, average people, show their love this way. It’s overwhelming. There’s kids ages six to seven, there’s people age 80 to 90 years. How can I not be here?

Abdul Qadir, from the Islamic Center of Tacoma

The demonstration, featuring a wide range of ages and even including a few canine companions, was a heartening experience for the protesters and also for their targeted audience. Abdul Qadir, from the Islamic Center of Tacoma, stopped by the protest to join in protest against Mund’s message and to express his thanks for the support.

“There’s so much support. We’re watching people, average people, show their love this way. It’s overwhelming,” he said. “There’s kids ages 6 to 7, there’s people age 80 to 90 years. How can I not be here?”

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