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Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Irving residents lead peace rally in Dallas

Photo: In response to the recent armed protest outside the Islamic mosque in Irving, residents march to promote peace in support of the Islamic community in the DFW area. /Photo by Adam Stephens

Irving residents joined other concerned citizens at the United Against Racism and Hate demonstration in Dallas on Dec. 12. Many protestors gathered at Fair Park and marched along Parry Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to promote an anti-racism message.

The event was originally organized as a counter-protest in response to a proposed KKK rally planned for the same day outside a mosque in Irving. The United Against Racism and Hate demonstration was formed as a counter-rally with over 400 people responding. For unspecified reasons, the KKK decided to postpone their demonstration, supposedly until the spring.

Regardless, the counter-protest continued in response to an increasing level of hate and racism in the North Texas area, specifically against Muslims. The event eventually grew to the point where the demonstration was focused on hatred and prejudice in general. The location of the protest was changed at the request of the mosque to avoid publicity and for the safety of its members.

“As a community, we’re seeing an extreme amount of hate and racism to all different kinds of marginalized groups,” Executive Director for the DFW chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Alia Salem said. “It is imperative that the entire community come together, because this is not a Muslim problem. This is an entire community problem. If we’re to stop this cycle of hate, we have to do it together as a community of neighbors and American citizens.”

The protest was sponsored by many local groups, including the Dallas County Democratic party, many Methodist Churches, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center of Dallas, Cathedral of Hope, and a synagogue in Irving. One of the co-coordinators was Tonya Tutone, who also coordinated the Love Fest held in response to another anti-Muslim protest.

“I grew up in Irving, and I grew up in the DFW area, and I’ve seen that kind of hate being spread over and over and over again, and I’ve seen all of us just hope for a change,” Tutone said. “When I saw those men following families, terrorizing people in our own community, it was just the last straw.

“I am not a religious person, but I know what’s right. I know people deserve to be treated with dignity and with respect. It helped people come out and just start this snowball of a movement that is going to show everyone that Texas is full of people with giant hearts and beautiful minds. We can all come together despite our differences and become one community.”

The march concluded outside the Martin Luther King Center where various coordinators and pastors gave speeches and encouraged participants to join several groups dedicated to affecting social change within the DFW area. At that time, it had started raining, a fact which was incorporated into some of the speeches, citing it as an example of the determination of the protestors. Two pastors and a rabbi spoke during the event as well, condemning acts of hatred and terrorism and calling for a sense of unity in the community. A few political figures such as Texas Congressional Candidate Don Jaquess also attended the event.

“Today is not a rally just to come together and say that we’ll love each other,” Salem said. “Today is a day for us to stand up and say we will do something about this. We have organizations covering everything from police brutality to social justice issues to racial justice issues. Today is a mobilization. We will not change this until we start having our voices represented.”