Thursday, April 17, 2014
The Associated Press
MULBERRY, Fla. — Law enforcement arrested a Florida pastor Wednesday as he drove to a park to light nearly 3,000 Qurans on fire to protest the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Pastor Terry Jones, most recently of Gainesville, Fla., has ignored requests from U.S. military officials to not stage his fiery protests.
Polk County sheriff's deputies arrested Pastor Terry Jones, 61, and his associate pastor, Marvin Sapp Jr., 34, on felony charges as he drove a pickup truck towing a large barbecue-style grill filled with Qurans soaked in kerosene. He had said he was heading to a nearby park to burn 2,998 Qurans -- one for every victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sheriff's officials said they would hold a news conference later Wednesday to discuss specific charges.
Mulberry's mayor, along with area elected officials, a sheriff's deputy and several Polk County residents have talked about the need to express love and tolerance for all faiths on Sept. 11.
Jones is the pastor of a small evangelical Christian church. He first gained attention in 2010 when he planned to burn a Quran on 9/11, although he eventually called it off. His congregation did burn the Muslim holy book in March 2011 and last year he promoted an anti-Muslim film. All three incidents were believed to have sparked violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The most violent protest happened after the 2011 Quran burning as hundreds of protesters stormed a U.N. compound in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, killing seven foreigners, including four Nepalese guards.
Jones has repeatedly ignored pleas from the U.S. military asking him not to stage his protests. Military officials say his actions put American and Western troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere in danger.
Mulberry is a town of about 3,000 between Orlando and Tampa and has no connection to Jones' church, which recently moved out of its Gainesville building.
Earlier Wednesday, about 75 people gathered in Mulberry for an interfaith prayer service to counter Jones' actions.
Mike Ghouse, who has organized a 9/11 prayer service in his home state of Texas for nine years, brought his event to Mulberry because of Jones' planned Quran burning.