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2017-07-19 / Front Page

Sowing the Seeds of Conflict

Rally Targets Islamberg’s Muslim Community
By Lillian Browne


The second annual ride for national security, targeting Islamberg, a Muslim community near Hancock, took place on Saturday, July 15. 
Lillian Browne/The Reporter The second annual ride for national security, targeting Islamberg, a Muslim community near Hancock, took place on Saturday, July 15. Lillian Browne/The Reporter TOMPKINS - A 29-vehicle brigade of self-proclaimed anti-terrorist patriots rallied against Delaware County’s Islamberg, a Muslim community near Hancock, on Saturday, July 15, for a “Ride for National Security.” The rally, the second of its kind, drew a large police presence as well as that of a homegrown constitutionalist militia.

In contrast to last year’s inaugural ride, there was no counterprotest and no spectators allowed, as New York State Police closed Roods Creek Road to all traffic for hours around the 1 p.m. ride-by.

Members of the media were also sequestered and prevented from accessing private property adjacent to Islamberg to provide coverage of the event, under the order of Lieutenant Robert Croswell of the state police. Media was likewise detained for 20 minutes following the ride-by and required to walk nearly two miles to their vehicles. Tension was high all around, prior to the start of the rally, with Croswell screaming at the media, calling them “liars,” insisting that they did not have permission to be on the private property though the property owner told him otherwise.


Roods Creek Road was closed by state troopers for several hours while the rally targeting Islamberg took place. 
Lillian Browne/The Reporter Roods Creek Road was closed by state troopers for several hours while the rally targeting Islamberg took place. Lillian Browne/The Reporter The incident between the media and the police is emblematic of the situation in which Islamberg residents find themselves embroiled - one of fear, misunderstanding, miscommunication and name-calling.

Islamberg issued a press release on July 11, aware of the ride-by, stating that they would not stage a counter protest against the “dangerous homegrown terrorists.” Those participating in the rally, from places like Maine, New Jersey, Syracuse and Binghamton, likewise characterized Islamberg residents as “suspicious” and “haters” operating a military-style training camp which practices Sharia Law and poses a “threat” to America.

Recent fringe-media reports linking the arrest of Ramadan Abdullah, 64, of Johnson City, who was accused of stealing ammunition from a Gander Mountain store an hour away, to Islamberg, fueled attendance at the rally by patriot organization members. Abdullah was subsequently accused of and arrested for illegally possessing a “stockpile” of firearms and ammunition, which certain media outlets stated were headed for Islamberg.

Lillian Browne/The Reporter
New York State Police Captain Scott Heggelke was tasked with management of the rally. Heggelke said troopers’ presence was to ensure safety for all.
Lillian Browne/The Reporter New York State Police Captain Scott Heggelke was tasked with management of the rally. Heggelke said troopers’ presence was to ensure safety for all. New York State Police Captain Scott Heggelke stated prior to the start of the rally that there was “no evidence to say that any of those weapons were destined for Islamberg.”

The massive police presence, which included members of the Deposit and Hancock Police Departments and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, was to “protect people’s right to assemble, but to make sure that it’s done in a safe manner,” Heggelke said. However, that right did not extend to the media, who were forced by troopers to stand in a 15-foot span of driveway access below Islamberg.

Lillian Browne/The Reporter
There was a large police presence in Deposit and along Roods Creek Road in preparation of Saturday’s rally. Here, recent graduates of police academy await instruction from commanding officers.
Lillian Browne/The Reporter There was a large police presence in Deposit and along Roods Creek Road in preparation of Saturday’s rally. Here, recent graduates of police academy await instruction from commanding officers. Heggelke later stated that the road was closed and media sequestered for their own safety. However, members of the Delaware County chapter of New York Lightfoot Milita, a constitutionalist militia group, were permitted access to and allowed to drive on Roods Creek Road, though it was closed to all other traffic.

The militia, according to local organizer George Curbelo, was formed about four and a half years ago to support and protect constitutional rights and “act as a visual deterrent” to potential infringements on those rights while “working in conjunction with law enforcement.”

Lillian Browne/The Reporter
Members of the Delaware County chapter of the New York Lightfoot Militia were presengt at the rally to make certain that no one’s constitutional rights were infringed upon.
Lillian Browne/The Reporter Members of the Delaware County chapter of the New York Lightfoot Militia were presengt at the rally to make certain that no one’s constitutional rights were infringed upon. Curbelo said he learned of the rally through social media and reached out to rally organizer Joseph Glasgow, representing the group known as “Everything Patriot,” to assess his intent. Curbelo said he told Glasgow that a rally was “probably a waste of his time,” since Islamberg residents, in many ways, are integrated into the local community. “The locals, for the most part,” Curbelo said, “don’t have a problem with them (Islamberg residents).”

After “monitoring” Glasgow for several months, Curbelo and crew contacted a counter-terrorist investigation unit of law enforcement and mobilized the Delaware County militia unit to ready themselves for stand-by support for police.

The militia, Curbelo said, is a neutral party, and that was made known to law enforcement, Islamberg and to Glasgow, Curbelo said. “We are not for or against anyone,” he said. After meeting with state troopers and Islamberg residents early Saturday morning, militia members positioned themselves to self-police everyone involved in the rally for possible infringement of constitutional rights.

Croswell, in a follow-up telephone interview on Monday, July 17, said police are aware of the militia but they were not at the event at the request of police and they do not work with troopers in any “official” capacity.

Though the rally was peaceful, Curbelo said, things could have quickly escalated or gone wrong.

That could be credited in part, to rumors, speculation and miscommunication by both protestors and Islamberg spokesmen. Many of the protestors stated that they have never attempted to make contact with Islamberg residents, nor have they talked with local law enforcement. Instead, they said, they follow news reports which have characterized Islamberg as a military-style terrorist training camp. Islamberg residents have been mum on the issue, which may fuel speculation and suspicion.

Joshua Laury, a member of “Everything Patriot,” traveled to Delaware County from Waterville, Maine, with his wife Tanya. Laury said that he, and others like him are suspicious about activities that may or may not occur at the religious community. Regardless of what goes on there, he said, he wants to make certain that people around the country know that Islamberg exists. Laury said that he saw a Fox News report about “the cache of guns” (referring to Abdullah’s arrest) headed for Islamberg to be used at the July 15 rally, and drove several hours to show American patriotic support against terrorist activity.

When asked if he was aware that Islamberg residents are also American citizens, he shrugged.

Cheryl Murray, also a member of “Everything Patriot,” asserted that residents at Islamberg practice Sharia Law. “I’m totally against it,” Murray said. “It just doesn’t work with American values.”

Sharia Law, derived from Islamic religious text, is interpreted by some to be a legal system, while others use it as a values guide. Depending on interpretation, some see it as, like Murray does, as a tool to suppress women. Though, she said, “I don’t have a problem with the religion.” She was not protesting the religion at the rally, but instead wanted to send a message to authorities about suspected terrorist training camps.

Like the Laurys, Murray has made no attempt to validate or refute her suspicions by contacting Islamberg residents or law enforcement.

Glasgow said he began to organize the event in February, well in advance of the Abdullah’s arrest, not in response to it. He took over the role from last year’s organizer, Ram Lubranicki, representing “Bikers Against Jihad,” he said, to make sure authorities don’t lose sight of the fact that Islamberg’s founder has been on a terrorist watch list.

Glasgow wants, he said, to set up a meeting between his group and “Islamberg elders” with law enforcement mediation so everyone can have a better understanding of exactly what activities take place at Islamberg.

He believes, he said, that most Islamberg residents are “innocent” of terrorist activity, but he also believes that the women and children there are “mistreated.”

When someone is arrested or killed in connection with a terrorist attack, “It becomes known that their allegiance is with Allah and ISIS,” Glasgow said broadly.

Lillian Browne/The Reporter
Deposit Mayor Rob Rynearson provided the New York State Police with the support of Deposit Police and Emergency Services departments at the July 15 Ride for National Security.
Lillian Browne/The Reporter Deposit Mayor Rob Rynearson provided the New York State Police with the support of Deposit Police and Emergency Services departments at the July 15 Ride for National Security. Lisa Joseph, representing Syracuse based “Act for America,” who characterized her organization as “the NRA of national security,” said she attended the rally to shed light on “No Go Zones” and potential anti-American military training camps. Islamberg, Joseph said, is one of 22 known No-Go Zones in the country and she wants to make sure people know about them.

“We do not have a problem with peaceful Muslims,” she said, “We have a problem with radical Islamic terrorists.” Like the others, Joseph has had no contact with Islamberg residents, but said she would welcome an invitation.

The Muslims of America, who are headquartered at Islamberg, in the July 11 press release, said that they and their “allies” encourage Muslim, Christian and Jewish unity.

The statement both seeks to extinguish while at the same time fuels an “us versus them” mentality.

The rally, the press release continued, was a representation of “lucrative American Islamophobia movement.”

In the same statement the Muslims of America referred to the protesting groups as the “American Taliban,” and “proponents of mischief” who they say are “ Americans who engage in terroristic and anti-social activities against citizens - just like the brutal Taliban of Afghanistan.”

Glasgow said that the goal of the rally was to bring awareness to national security, but his ultimate goal is to open the lines of communication between Muslims of America and the public.

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