Hundreds of Muslims are rallying in Austin as part of their biennial Texas Capitol lobbying day -- but a small group of counter-protesters are trying to shout them down.
As organizers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations began the event, a woman grabbed a microphone erected on the Capitol steps and proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ.
The microphone was wrestled back and the rally continued peacefully. But nearby hecklers yelled things like "assimilate or go home."
Council Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll said the event began in 2003 and never drew opposition before. But this year, online threats prompted the council to contact the FBI.
Added police presence around the event was also conspicuous.
Last week, hundreds of protesters gathered outside a Muslim group's conference in a Dallas suburb and heckled participants.
Listen to the protests
KERA's Doualy Xaykaothao is in Austin, covering the event.
Shouting “Jesus” and “No Sharia,” the protesters tried to drown out speeches by Muslim constituents visiting from all over Texas, including from Fort Worth and Dallas. Children, parents, students and activists banded together to show solidarity. Texas Muslim Capitol Day is the seventh such event sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
For more pictures from Thursday's event, see a slideshow here.
State rep asks Muslim visitors to "renounce" Islamic terrorists
Meanwhile, a state representative has generated controversy for asking Muslims who visit her office to "to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America."
Freshman state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, is not in Austin today to celebrate Texas Muslim Capitol Day. But she left instructions for the staff in her Capitol office on how to handle visitors who are, including asking them to declare allegiance to the United States.
"I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws," she posted on Facebook. "We will see how long they stay in my office." ...
As of mid-morning, the Israeli flag was still on the desk in White's office. By noon, she had released a follow-up Facebook post that added: “I do not apologize for my comments. … If you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not."
But at 3 p.m., White released a new statement saying she welcomed "all of my constituents who would like to come and visit our office in the Texas State Capitol."
"As law-abiding American citizens, we all have the privilege and the right to freedom of speech granted to us by the First Amendment," she wrote. "... As a proud Texan and American I fully denounce all terrorist groups or organizations who’s [sic] intent is to hurt and destroy the great state of Texas and our nation.”