Quran-burning Pastor Jones: Michigan state Rep. Agema volunteered to speak at Lansing rally
The controversial Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones says that state Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville) called him and asked to speak at his Wednesday rally but “chickened out” when it came time to stand on the Capitol steps and give a speech about his anti-foreign laws legislation.
“Yeah because he chickened out,” Jones said of Agema. “He called and said he wanted to come and speak. We said that would be fine. That would be great. A little bit later, all of the sudden, he said he couldn’t speak.”
Jones said Agema claimed he had agreed to speak without knowing his schedule, which the pastor said he “found hard to believe.”
“I believe some type of group or interest group got to him and put pressure on him. And of course he backed down,” Jones said. “I mean our politicians are not men of courage, they’re politicians.”
“Rep. Agema did not call Mr. Jones. That is completely untrue,” said Mark Kasvin, a legislative aide to Agema.
Jones’ version of events was followed up by an email from James Terpening, a Lansing area resident who facilitated Jones’ appearances in Lansing.
“I am the rally organizer for Operation Freedom’s Tree that had Terry Jones in Lansing. Agema DID agree to speak and I was the one that spoke to him, when he canceled he called my cell phone and left a voice mail saying he had to cancel and he was sorry which I still have. He wanted to do our rally and only backed out after he had pressure placed on him.”
Michigan Messenger has requested the audio from this voicemail, but has not received it as of press time.
Kasvin said that the scheduling conflict was a meeting with a constituent in Lansing.
“I was shocked a member of the Michigan legislature would agree to speak at an event like this in the first place,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said of Agema’s alleged agreement to speak at the rally. Bernero called Agema’s “foreign laws” legislation “a solution looking for a problem.”
“I just think it’s much ado about nothing,” said Bernero. “It’s a bunch of crap.”
GOP Gov. Rick Snyder’s office on Tuesday came out against the foreign laws bill.
“Regarding Rep. Agema’s bill, we have yet to see any evidence that it is needed or that foreign laws are being practiced in our state,” said Geralyn Lasher, Snyder’s communications director.
Agema has made a series of headlines this year with proposals to eliminate the Healthy Michigan Fund Initiative which would eliminate Michigan’s match for federal HIV funding dollars and instead use that money to pay for airport improvements; proposals to fine state universities for offering partner benefits to same-sex couples and legislation to develop an Arizona like immigration law in the state.
Jones spoke to the media following his rally on the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday night, which drew a half dozen supporters, 15 protesters and gaggle of press. He was also surrounded by the highest security put in place at the state Capitol in recent years. As people entered the grounds, they were subjected to having their bags searched. At least 50 officers were visible flanking either side of the Capitol steps, as well as across the street in front of Lansing City Hall and the Romney building. In the hour before Jones’ speech was scheduled, officers with bomb sniffing dogs patrolled the grounds, while facilities staff filled a series of orange plastic barricades with water.
Jones said the small turnout didn’t bother him.
“We’re not disappointed. We would like to have a lot more but we realize that these things are difficult,” Jones said of the lackluster turnout. “They’re very controversial. People are afraid of Islam. They’re afraid of the radical element, what would happen. They’re afraid maybe their neighbors will them. Of course the mayor spoke out against us. That’s a whole lot for people to over come.”
He delivered a rambling speech arguing that Islam poses a growing threat to America. The speech was peppered with claims that those of the Islamic faith have never contributed to betterment of society, that Islamic regimes such as Saudi Arabia did not participate in foreign aid as the U.S. and Europe do, and that true Islam is not what he called “the watered down version” seen in the United States. Jones’ said true Islam is represented by suicide bombers, honor killings, polygamy and more.
Early on in the evening protesters started chanting “stop hate speech.” Jones ignored the chanting, but one supporter, who would only identify himself as Eugene because he was afraid of people knowing who he was, frantically and angrily pleaded with police to stop the counter protesters. MSP officers did move in, telling protesters that they either had to stop chanting or move to the public sidewalk.
Protesters held a large banner and series of smaller signs condemning Jones’ views.
After the event, Jones also announced he will hold an event at Lansing’s Hunter Park today at 5 p.m.
“We will have to deploy more resources; spend more money to allow him to exercise his Constitutional rights,” said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. “We’re taking all the necessary precautions to protect the kids and the neighborhood…Our main priority is public safety.”