LANSING, MICH. - About 100 people gathered in south Lansing Saturday morning, some to march against Sharia and others to oppose the march.
The two groups, separated by a makeshift divider police set up, stood in a grassy area in the 6200 block of South Pennsylvania Avenue, south of Miller Road, and held signs, waved flags and chanted.
"No hate. No fear. Muslims are welcome here," was among the popular chants from the counter-protesters, who appeared to outnumber those gathered for the March Against Sharia event, which was one of nearly two dozen planned across the country.
Shawn Lahring drove to Lansing from the western part of the state Saturday to take part in the march. Lahring, a grandmother of 10, said she was there not to protest immigrants or Muslims, but to voice a concern that the country's laws and Constitution need to be protected.
"I feel like it's slipping away from us," she said of the country.
About two dozen people gathered to oppose Islamic law, and many were many carrying assault weapons and wearing military-style uniforms.
The Lansing Police Department had about a half dozen officers present, and blocked off part of South Pennsylvania Avenue for a short period of time around 10:30 a.m. as the counter-protesters made their way from Miller Road. Both sides had left the area by 12:30 p.m., with the counter protesters leaving first.
An event called "Wash Away the Hate in Michigan" was held later Saturday at the state Capitol Building in downtown Lansing. It was organized by the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing and several other groups.
Malak Aldasouqi, an East Lansing native who just finished her freshman year at Michigan State University, addressed the crowd of about two dozen and said their support warms her heart.
"After all the hate, the bigotry and the slander," she said from the Capitol steps, "we always get this support (from the community)."
Aldasouqi and the others washed the Capitol steps and surrounding area with water and mops and sponges as a symbolic gesture, they said, to wash away hate from the morning rally on Lansing's south side.
ACT for America is the group that organized the nearly two dozen rallies against Islamic law that took place across the country. It describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots national security organization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated ACT for America as a hate group. Scholars and others say the protesters are stoking unfounded fears and promoting a distorted and prejudiced view of the religion.
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© 2017 Lansing State Journal