Competing rallies taking place in South Bay

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SANTA CLARA (BCN) -- An anti-Muslim organization described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center is holding a rally in Santa Clara on Saturday morning, as 27 other chapters nationwide hold coordinated "March Against Sharia, March for Human Rights" demonstrations.

The American Congress for Truth for America has also planned a rally from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Stevens Creek Boulevard and Winchester Avenue, on the border with San Jose.

About 124 human rights, religious and leftist political organizations have planned a "Unity Rally" in a counter-protest at the same location and expect a turnout about 10 times larger, according to Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Bay Area chapter.

Nonetheless, Billoo said, "It's hard not to be concerned when you have the nation's largest anti-Muslim organization coming to your town."

ACT for America calls itself "the nation's largest and most influential national security grassroots advocacy organization," and claims to support the freedom of religion while opposing Islamic terrorism and the human rights abuses that organizers say are promoted by Sharia law.

"They don't make that distinction when they're talking amongst themselves and when they're taking to their base," said Sunsara Taylor, a New York-based organizer with Refuse Fascism, which was founded the month after Donald Trump was elected president.

SPLC calls the organization, which claims over 500,000 members nationwide, "far and away the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America."

Last year, ACT for America activists in Montana rallied against a proposal to open a refugee resettlement office in Missoula, according to the SPLC.

The organization maintains ties with the Trump administration, according to the SPLC.

At a Dallas-Fort Worth ACT for America chapter event in August, former national security advisory Michael Flynn said Islam promotes violence, likening it to "a malignant cancer" and "a political ideology" that "hides behind this notion of it being a religion."

ACT for America organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The notion that the U.S. is in danger of being taken over by Sharia law is nonsense," Refuse Fascism organizer Raphael Kadaris said, likening the anti-Sharia law rally to the spreading in Nazi Germany of propaganda about an "international Jewish conspiracy to take over Western civilization."

On Thursday, ACT for America removed its backing from the planned anti-Sharia march in Arkansas when national leaders learned that the local organizer was associated with white supremacist groups.

"We stand firmly opposed to any actions by individuals or organizations that seek to attack or intimidate based on race, religion or sexual orientation," national ACT for America organizers said in a statement.

"Our June 10 nationwide marches are in support of basic human rights for all, and against the horrific treatment of women, children and members of the LGBTQ community that is sanctioned by Sharia law," ACT for America organizers said.

Almost 1,000 people have expressed interest in the unity rally on Facebook, dwarfing the 60 or so people who have submitted an RSVP to the ACT for America Facebook event.