Gunmen killed outside Geert Wilders event near Dallas
Two gunmen who opened fire outside a competition for the best cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad near Dallas in the United States on Sunday. PVV leader Geert Wilders was the keynote speaker at the event. The police shot and killed both gunmen. A security officer was injured.
The incident happened just before 19:00 on Sunday evening, local time at the Curtis Culwell Center, as the event was coming to an end. According to the City of Garland, Texas Government, the two gunman pulled up in a car and opened fire. They hit an unarmed security officer. The Garland police returned fire and killed both gunmen. No one else was hurt. The identities of the two gunmen have not been released and the motive for the attack is still unclear. The police are investigating.
After the attack, the police locked down the Center to protect those inside. The about 200 attendees were evacuated and transferred to another location to await questioning by the FBI. A bomb squad was called in to make sure that there are no explosives in the gunmen's car.
The wounded security officer, Bruce Joiner, was hit in the ankle. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and has since been released. A spokesperson for the Garland police, Joe Harn, told Dallas News that Joiner was dressed in a police-style uniform, but was unarmed.
Wilders was the keynote speaker for the event, organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He awarded a $10 thousand prize for the best Muhammad cartoon. According to Dallas News, Wilders was received with a standing ovation. He told the audience that most terrorists are Muslims and "the less Islam the better". "We are here in defiance of Islam to stand for our rights and freedom of speech," he said during his speech. "That is our duty."
Wilders was also the guest speaker at two events in Washington D.C. last week. The Anti Defamation League, an influential Jewish civil rights movement in America, criticized the two congressmen for hosting Wilders, calling him an "anti-Muslim bigot", and asked them to revoke his invitation.
The PVV leader is currently under investigation in the Netherlands for inciting hatred against Moroccans. During campaign speeches in 2014, Wilders twice mad public calls for "fewer Moroccans" in the Netherlands. More than 130 Moroccans have filed requests for compensation for damages incurred due to Wilders' discrimination against them.
The event in Garland on Sunday created a lot of controversy. Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are viewed as offensive in Islam. The AFDI paid an additional 10 thousand dollars for extra security at the event. Pamela Geller, president of the AFDI, called it "the high cost of freedom". According to the event's organizers, the exhibit was exercising their freedom of expression.
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