Deedra Abboud is the first Muslim to ever run for statewide office in Arizona. Running as a progressive with support from the organization, Justice Democrats, founded by former Bernie Sanders staffers to help progressive candidates get elected, Abboud is competing in the Democratic Primary against Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) who raised over $3 million in 2017 and already has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Despite the Democratic Party establishment selecting their own nominee in this primary race, Abboud has run a grassroots-fueled campaign while facing adversity in the form of a group of pro-Trump racists who have frequently protested her campaign events.
On March 14, Abboud released two videos depicting Trump supporters, previously affiliated with a group called Patriot Movement AZ. The group has frequently posted anti-Muslim rhetoric on their social media pages, participated in local Trump Campaign rallies, and deliberately sought out Abboud to harass her and her supporters.
In the videos, Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer confront Abboud while she left the Bernie Sanders rally in Phoenix, Arizona on March 11.
“Muslims have no right in America,” Gonzales yelled at Abboud while walking up to her and livestreaming on Facebook. In the second video, Gonzales and Dauenhauer started yelling “Donald Trump for President,” at Abboud with a young child, before going on another racist rant.
Police escorted members of the Patriot Movement AZ group out of the Bernie Sanders rally for protesting inside, and Gonzales livestreamed with other members in a section courted off by police for protesters, only for the two women to ambush supporters leaving the rally.
“This was the worst case, but the Patriot Movement members have been following me since I started the campaign and held counter-protests at my meet and greets. The first time we even allowed them to stay on private property to have their freedom of speech and to show them they weren’t going to intimidate us,” said Abboud in an interview with me. She noted that her campaign had to change venues earlier this year for an event after they received reports that they planned to try to get her campaign kicked out of the restaurant. The members followed her campaign to the changed venue, at a banquet hall.
“They are attacking me for being Muslim and have been for a long time, trying to say I shouldn’t have the right to run for office in any capacity in the United States,” said Abboud. Though the Patriot Movement AZ has since distanced themselves from Gonzales, Abboud pointed out they’ve been participants in the same conversations and hateful rhetoric. “Even if they’re not participating, they are basically encouraging that behavior.”
In a previous video released on March 4, HuffPost reported Gonzales and Dauenhauer took “three unidentified children on a trip to the mosque in order to ‘collect as much information’ and ‘expose mosques’ in order to teach the children how to be ‘American patriots.’” Gonzales removed the video from her Facebook page and Dauenhauer deleted her account after news outlets began reporting on it. Both women were reportedly taken into custody on March 15 for trespassing and removing several items from the mosque.
Shortly after the videos were released, Patriot Movement AZ disassociated themselves from Gonzales and Dauenhauer, who frequently supported and shared content on their social media pages. “Recently two persons who had previously been affiliated with us have crossed a line that violates our principles and beliefs,” the group wrote in a Facebook post.
The group has organized Trump rallies as recently as March 10, 2018, in which their website mentions “Sharia Law” as an issue the rally’s speakers would address. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward made an appearance at the event.
The founder of the group, Lesa Antone, tagged Gonzales in a promo for the event.