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No Violence at 'Draw Muhammad' Contest

  • VOA News

Members of the Islamic Community Center, including Ilyas Wadood, right, talk with people attending the "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II" outside the center in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2015.

Members of the Islamic Community Center, including Ilyas Wadood, right, talk with people attending the "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II" outside the center in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2015.

Police separated anti-Islam protesters from demonstrators defending religious rights outside an Islamic community center Friday in Arizona.

The demonstration in Phoenix was billed as a Prophet Muhammad cartoon-drawing contest and ended without any arrests or violence.

Phoenix police estimated about 500 protesters showed up, roughly 250 on each side, according to The Associated Press.

Organizers – bikers whom police feared would be armed – said the rally was mounted in response to an incident earlier this month in which two gunmen opened fire on a similar contest in Texas where cartoonists were drawing pictures of Islam's Prophet.

WATCH: Protesters gather outside venue hosting Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest

Both gunmen were killed following a brief exchange of fire. One police officer was wounded. One of the gunmen frequently worshipped at the north Phoenix mosque where Friday's rally was held.

Publicizing event

"ROUND 2!!!!!!!," declared organizer Jon Ritzheimer on the Friday event's Facebook page. The ex-Marine said the rally would be peaceful, but he had urged protesters to bring weapons in case of an attack.

"People are also encouraged to utilize there (sic) second amendment right at this event just incase (sic) our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack," it said.

Ritzheimer invited thousands of bikers to attend the rally. More than 600 people had responded on the event's Facebook page by Friday.

The shooting at the Texas cartoon contest was claimed by the Islamic State group that has declared an Islamic caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria. However, experts have questioned that claim and authorities have found no links between the two gunmen and the extremist organization.

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