Protesters of Islamic law and counter-demonstrators expressing support for Muslims clashed verbally Saturday, prompting police to step between them, as dozens of anti-Shariah rallies took place around the country.
The dueling demonstrations unfolded across the street from each other in lower Manhattan on a day as heated as both sides' views. A man collapsed under the piercing midday sun while watching a speech at the anti-Shariah ACT for America rally. He was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition later Saturday, rally organizer Pax Hart said.
The anti-Shariah demonstrators yelled "commie scum!" and counter-protesters shouted "Nazis!" as the two sides squared off, after some of the counter-protesters crossed the street and approached the rally. Officers quickly positioned themselves between the two groups. There were no immediate reports of any arrests.
While many Muslims liken Shariah to other religions' laws that guide the faithful but don't supercede the rules of secular societies in which they may live, some states have been concerned enough to pass legislation prohibiting the use of foreign law in state courts.
"This is not an anti-Muslim event," Gavin McInnes, a co-founder of Vice Media and founder of a group called the "Proud Boys," told the rally audience. "It's an anti-Shariah event."
Participants worried that Islamic law could influence U.S. courts and harm women, among other concerns.
"We don't want it imposed in this country," said Merav Levi, an Israeli immigrant.
She said she doesn't hate Muslims but was concerned about domestic violence and "honor" killings of women deemed to disgrace their families; such killings occur in parts of the Muslim world.
Counter-protesters said the rally was stoking unfounded fears and stirring racism.
"No hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here," they chanted, accompanied by horns, pots and pans.
"The theme of today is drowning out racism," Tony Murphy said. "The more racists get a platform, the more people get attacked."
While people came and went from both groups, at noontime dozens of anti-Shariah protesters faced scores of counter-demonstrators across the street.
There were many similar demonstrations across the country Saturday.