Point Fosdick Drive was a destination for locals and visitors alike Friday evening as they joined together to protest a scheduled speech by noted anti-Islam proponent Heidi Mund in an event hosted by the Tacoma Narrows Tea Party at the Gig Harbor Pierce County Library.
However, the scheduled meeting was not held, according to a source at the demonstration, who said that a member of the hosting group did not pick up a key from the Gig Harbor Library branch manager prior to the library’s 6 p.m. closure. Several event attendees arrived to find the doors locked and no group leaders present. The meeting had been scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m., according to the event calendar on the Pierce County Republican Party website.
Despite the lack of a meeting, the demonstration continued, stretching from the library to 48th Street along Point Fosdick Drive. More than 120 protesters carried signs bearing messages such as “Love thy Neighbor,” “Choose Understanding Not Fear” and “No Hate Speech in Gig Harbor.”
The motto of the event was “Love, Not Hate, makes Gig Harbor Great,” and could be seen on signs large and small and heard through the voices of the protesters as they chanted to passing motorists, many showing their support in return with honks and cheers from open windows as they passed.
Demonstrating neighborly love and inclusion was the ultimate goal for the event, Jim Albrecht and Lisa Marcus said Thursday. The couple are Gig Harbor residents and members of Indivisible Gig Harbor, the organizing group behind the event.
“This woman, Heidi Mund, has called Muslims ‘people of darkness.’ When rhetoric like that, speech like that, is coming to your doorstep in your hometown, we feel we have to stand up and say that’s not what Gig Harbor’s about, that’s not what America’s about and we’re not going to stand for it,” Albrecht said. “You can’t be quiet because you’re afraid it will create tension. There are already people who are feeling the tension.”
Showing support for their neighbors and helping to create a community that welcomes diversity is important to the couple, who are both professors at Pacific Lutheran University.
“We live in a diverse world. I think that communities that are diverse (are), to me, what America is,” Marcus said. “We have always tried to teach our kids that they live in a much bigger world than this pocket of Gig Harbor, and that that is a good thing.”
Jeni Woock, Gig Harbor resident and founder of The Citizens for the Preservation of Gig Harbor, lent her support to the protest.
“It is important in Gig Harbor that we build bridges, not walls,” Woock said. “Everyone is welcome in our community and we need to make sure everyone feels welcome and respected.”
Word of the protest spread quickly through social media, drawing fellow activists from Tacoma to Bremerton to Vashon Island.
Karla Rixon, 32, came from Tacoma not only to lend her voice in support of diverse communities, but also to stand in opposition to the rise in xenophobia and anti-Islamic sentiment that she has seen on the rise locally and nationally.
“There are so many people in this community who are devalued by this talk,” she said. “I care about my neighbors.”
The demonstration was a heartening experience for their targeted audience. Abdul Qadir, from the Islamic Center of Tacoma, came to protest against Mund’s message and to express his thanks for the support.
“There’s so much support. We’re watching people, average people, show their love this way. It’s overwhelming,” he said. “There’s kids ages 6 to 7, there’s people age 80 to 90 years. How can I not be here?”