Extra security in place for Muhammad art, cartoon contest

A controversial event is scheduled for Sunday at a public school facility in Garland -- a contest sponsored by an organizer that critics call an anti-Islamic hate group.

In early January, the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French weekly, were hit by two brothers who carried out a brutal assault with military-like precision because the satirical newspaper was printing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

The brothers machine-gunned down a dozen people and injured about a dozen more.

That event inspired another event in Garland –- a Draw the Prophet art exhibit and cartoon contest that will take place Sunday at the Curtis Caldwell Center.

There, metal detectors inside and blockades outside are in place as a precaution.

"We'll be paying attention to any kind of chatter that we need to," said Officer Joe Harn with the Garland Police Department. "If anything raises suspicions, we will react to that."

Following the Hebdo attack, an Islamic Stand with Prophet conference was held at the Caldwell center, denouncing Islamophobia.

Outside, hundreds of people attended a free speech rally.

The organizer of that rally, and of Sunday's event, is Pamela Geller, a controversial anti-Islamic activist who has been labeled by some as an extremist.

Garland ISD, which owns the center, has said it has a non-discriminatory facilities policy.

At the moment, Garland police say they haven't seen any reason for additional concern on social media, but they know that could change in an instant.

"Once inside the building, these people that are putting on the event, they're in charge of that," said Harn. "We're just gonna make sure that everybody is safe on the outside and that there's nobody getting inside that's not supposed to be there."

The local chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, says it is an attempt to bait the Muslim community and it is not planning to protest the art exhibit.

Geller and Garland ISD could not be reached for comment.

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