Their message was clear: Peace and respect trump mistrust and hate.
A group of Columbia Basin College students launched a counter protest Tuesday in West Richland after spotting a man picketing the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities on Bombing Range Road a day earlier.
“We got an overwhelmingly positive response,” said Ben Hodges, a 23-year-old from Richland. He added: “The support we got wasn’t for Islam — it was for peace.”
The CBC students were responding to Michael Harmon’s protest a day earlier, when he parked a car in front of the Islamic Center with a banner reading “Terrorists” taped along the vehicle’s side.
Harmon, 28, of Burbank, who said he served as an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army, was surprised by the reactions he received, including at least one confrontation with a passerby.
“I didn’t expect everybody to be hitting me up on Facebook and so many people actually liking what I did and thanking me,” he said Tuesday.
“I’m a little upset with how many people were upset with me. I did expect some in the Tri-Cities, but not this many.”
Eric Molina, 22, of West Richland, one of the CBC students who protested Tuesday, was among those dismayed by Harmon’s sign.
“I thought it was a horrible, horrible thing to do,” Molina said.
He was driving along Bombing Range Road on Monday when he encountered Harmon’s protest.
“That’s kind of why I got so passionate about this,” Molina said. “I grew up on that street. I played Little League baseball on that street.”
Other protesters included Brandon Quam, 19, Ramiro Panduro, 26, and Britton Omel, 21.
Harmon is considering protesting again this evening10/1, though he was still working out the details, he said.
Molina and his friends are waiting on Harmon’s next move, he said. If the Burbank man wants to continue his protest, the college students are prepared to continue theirs.
Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org