Pastor Terry Jones and his assistant pastor, Marvin Sapp Jr. were arrested on felony charges Wednesday as they attempted to stage a protest against the Muslim faith by burning Qurans. They were arrested for attempting to burn close to 3,000 Qurans; one for each 9/11 victim of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
They were in route to a local park in a pickup truck with a large barbecue grill in tow when deputies arrested the ministers. The large grill was filled with 2,998 kerosene soaked Qurans.
The mayor of Mulberry, several area officials and many residents of Polk County have discussed the serious need for people to express love for all people and tolerance for all faiths. There are about 3,000 residents in Mulberry; a small town between Tampa and Orlando. Mulberry has no connection at all to Jones’ church.
Jones pastors a small church in the Gainesville area. This is not his first go round with this type of activity. In 2012 he made plans to burn a Quran on September 11 before calling it off. His church successfully burned a Quran in March 2011 and he promoted a film against Muslims; all of his actions of have sparked violence.
He has been warned repeatedly by the U.S. military about staging his protests. Jones continues to ignore their pleas. Military officials are concerned about his actions putting troops in Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere in danger.
Jones made his intent to burn the holy books public. He stated that he would do it in a park owned by the county in Mulberry called Loyce E. Harpe Park. He was denied when he applied for a permit. Jones stated that not having a permit would not stop him from spreading his message about Islam to the world.
On Wednesday, prior to Jones’ protest, a crowd of about 75 people joined together for prayer to counter the actions Jones was attempting. This event was organized by Mike Ghouse who has also arranged a 9/11 prayer service in Texas for nine years
Originally he wanted to do it in his home town of Texas but upon hearing about Jones’ intentions he decided to join forces with the group in Mulberry who has already set up a FaceBook page against this controversial pastor.
Ghouse said he feels people have a right to believe what they choose and Jones has a right to express himself. The residents of Mulberry said they agree with that but they don’t want the world to think that any of them agree with or condone Jones’ actions or views.
Pastor Jones was arrested in a McDonald’s parking lot before he could carry out his plans on Wednesday afternoon. Sheriff Grady Judd said they could not allow him to transport a grill on the road which was filled with flammable liquid. That’s too dangerous.
Deputies of Polk County took Pastor Jones and his assistant Sapp into custody. Sheriff Judd told the pastor that if he violates the law in Polk County he would go to jail and that’s how it is. They have not said exactly what charges the two pastors will face but have confirmed that they will be felonies.
The sheriff has also stated that other law enforcement saw Jones carrying a gun out in the open in the parking lot of McDonalds.
What had originally began as a rally against Pastor Jones and his antics quickly became a rally to support the American melting pot. Peace pinwheels made by children accompanied the crowd filled with mixed skin tones and faiths. They wanted to send a strong message to the world that it’s possible for Americans to join together; even though they may not share the same beliefs they can still defend each other.
As each of them stood together, side by side, they passed a candle to share its flame and show their unity. There were Muslims, atheists, Baptists and Mormons all together with each pausing to share a message about their faith, traditions and culture.
This event was started by Suzanne Carter who wanted to the world to know that the community of Mulberry is about more than people like Terry Jones and his hate antics. She said if Pastor Jones decides to take his antics to another place they will follow in hopes of spreading the same positive message of love and inclusivity.
A permit may not been able to stop Pastor Jones from his crazy antics but law enforcement did.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)