As hundreds of reports of verbal and physical attacks and harassment have poured in after the election of Donald Trump as president, the Dallas-Fort Worth office of an organization dedicated to promoting the civil rights and liberties of Muslims has been threateningly harassed twice in as many days.
Bikers and "people in pickup trucks" wearing masks circled the Dallas office building of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) "five or six times" on Friday afternoon, according to Alia Salem, who heads the Dallas-Forth Worth office. They were displaying signs affiliated with the "Three Percenter" armed hate movement. (The name refers to the obscure, inaccurate statistic that just three percent of the American population during the Revolutionary War were enlisted in the Army, according to the Anti-Defamation League). Salem contacted building security to allow her staff to leave their offices safely but didn't feel they were in any "imminent danger," she said in a phone interview Sunday.
Then, on Saturday, a during an event meant to create a space for young Muslim adults to "process and heal," the coffee shop hosting the event received a threatening call, asking if "the terrorists" were meeting there. The employee replied "no" and hung up immediately. The event, called CAIR Talks, was supposed to end in a half hour, so they continued, and a member of Salem's group who is licensed to carry weapons retrieved their weapon from their car and escorted guests leaving the event at Union Coffee in Dallas. Salem contacted the Dallas Police Department, who came to the scene and filled out a report. (The DPD did not immediately return a request for comment.)
Salem apologized for the incident to Rev. Michael Baughman, the owner of Union Coffee, which is also a United Methodist Church. Baughman told her that the coffee shop is a "sanctuary" for herself and Muslims and put out an alert to other community members, who came to the CAIR Talks event to create a safe environment. "If we don’t live by our values we’re nothing. We’re going to continue being a sanctuary regardless of business. We’re not going to change anything. We’re going to extend hospitality to those that are being marginalized," Rev. Baughman said in a phone interview Sunday.
"I've gotten worse [threats]," Salem said, but her staff hasn't, and she is worried about their wellbeing. "Unfortunately this is normal for us. We’re taking very specific safety precautions to make sure that my staff are in a safe environment when they’re doing their work."
CAIR's Dallas Fort Worth office regularly gets threats—even death threats—but the two incidents back-to-back is ominous to Salem. She said one thing she wants people to take away is the intimidation is a "reminder that we have to get mobile and use this as an opportunity to encourage people because the tensions are real and the threats are real…. It was a call for action for us."
This post has been updated to reflect the threatening call came during, not before, the event, and with a quote from Rev. Michael Baughman
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.