Waterbury Mayor speaks out against anti-Muslim march

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary admits he’s a little tense.

“I’m a bit concerned about this event tomorrow because of what’s happening worldwide,” said Mayor O’Leary. “There’s a lot of anxiety as we all know.”

And there’s anxiety in Waterbury because The Brass City is one of close to 30 cities across the country where the group ACT for America chose to hold anti-Muslim marches Saturday morning. It’s upsetting many local Muslims because they consider ACT for America to be a hate group.

There’s a lot of incidents that happen where our children are being bullied, are being targeted, mosques are being burned down, Muslims are being murdered, and these people are promoting this.”

Sentiments like that caused Mayor O’Leary to say this: “We live in America and freedom of speech is one of our most important assets. We all believe in that. But, I would prefer that they weren’t coming to Waterbury — if there’s going to be any negative rhetoric towards any of our citizens. Let me be clear, the Muslim population here in Waterbury is significant. They are strong believers in their faith, and their families, and this community. They are a very important part of this community and we welcome them and we’re happy to have them here.”

Some of those Waterbury Muslim residents are planning a counter protest to ACT for America’s March Against Sharia Law. ACT for America says they are standing up against atrocities done to females in the Muslim community. Fahd Syed, a local Muslim activist, says that is just one of ACT for America’s lies.

“They’re trying to divide Americans on false allegations,” said Syed. “Our community has no oppression towards any woman.”

Syed is organizing a community protest to counter ACT for America.

“There’s a lot of incidents that happen where our children are being bullied, are being targeted, mosques are being burned down, Muslims are being murdered, and these people are promoting this,” said Syed.

One Waterbury resident, who did not want to be identified, told News8 she does not believe Act for America is a hate group. She was afraid to give her name because she said hers isn’t a popular opinion.

Mayor O’Leary hopes whatever is said during these events tomorrow, that it’s said peacefully and with respect. He and the police department have been working hard to plan for any scenario Saturday. He said expect heavy police presence. He also said those officers will be there to maintain everyone’s safety. But, they cannot stop anyone from respectfully exercising their right to free speech.

“This group obviously has the right to come here and say what’s on their minds and we respect that because we are Americans,” the mayor said. “But, we will not allow any sort of infringement on anyone’s rights. And we certainly won’t allow any disorderly conduct or illegal behavior.”

“We’ve had some candid conversations and very good dialogue and communication with all groups that will be involved that we’ve identified at this point, so we’re confident that things will go well,” said Deputy Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo.