Michael Harmon, 28, of Burbank, also had a sign reading “Terrorists” on the side of his car, with a blue arrow pointing toward the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities on Bombing Range Road. Harmon said he served as a specialist in the Army and was in Afghanistan.
“You’ve got the Taliban, al-Qaida, ISIS – they all follow the Quran,” Harmon told the Herald, referring to the Islamic State group by one of its acronyms. “The Quran itself is evil. It states there in black and white they want to kill us.”
Ousman Kinteh, an official with the Islamic center who didn’t see the protest, said the facility’s imam, or religious leader, was concerned because a class for young children was planned Monday evening. “I would have called the police … if I saw him outside doing that,” Kinteh said.
Harmon said he wasn’t protesting specifically against the Islamic center. He only recently learned there was a mosque in the Tri-Cities. “It just blew my mind,” he said. “I would expect to see that in Seattle, but not here.” There might be peaceful Muslims, but they are not fully following the Quran, Harmon said.
Harmon said he contacted West Richland police to make sure it was OK for him to carry a concealed weapon while he protested. Harmon was allowed to carry his gun in a holster and protest, but police made sure he knew he couldn’t walk into the street or cause a disruption, said Sgt. Duane Olsen. “He’s got his First Amendment rights, like anybody else,” Olsen said.
Harmon said he heard from several passersby – some supportive, some opposing his views. He said he got in to one verbal confrontation with a Navy veteran who told him that Muslims are good people. “I just wish everybody would be more supportive of the troops and realize this is still going on,” Harmon said.
Olsen received two calls complaining about Harmon’s protest. He said one caller was cordial and the other hung up after being told that police couldn’t arrest Harmon for a hate crime. “I explained to him that he wasn’t committing a crime,” Olsen said. “He was emphatic that he was.”
Harmon, who protested for about an hour Monday, said he might return to protest Tuesday and that he plans to picket other Tri-City Islamic facilities.
Harmon is a “lone wolf” in his views, Kinteh said. Kinteh questioned why Harmon did not protest at Sunday’s Mid-Columbia Interfaith Peace Walk. The seven-mile walk, which started at the mosque, welcomed people from different religions.
Harmon said he was unaware of the march. “I visited their Facebook page, and I did not see that,” he said.