MURFRESSBORO, Tenn. – A candlelight vigil was held Monday night in Murfreesboro in response to two incidents over the weekend that brought investigators to the construction site of the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
In the early morning hours Saturday, someone set fire to construction equipment parked at the site, located off Veals Road at Bradyville Pike, and Sunday, area residents reported they heard several gunshots nearby.
Investigators do not know if the shots came from someone trying to threaten mosque members or from nearby hunters, but either way, it has mosque members on edge.
Claire Rogers, with MTRF, said, "This is a first amendment issue, and these are Americans citizens who must be guaranteed their basic rights."
Signs for peace and freedom were met with signs against the mosque, as people debated the issue on the steps of the courthouse.
"Some of those in opposition to the mosque's relocation have said that they will contest every brick that's going to be laid, and this is only evidence that they meant those words," Rogers continued.
For months, community members have been openly against building the Islamic center.
The sign marking the site was vandalized twice this year, once in January and once in June, and the mosque has also received harassing phone calls and emails.
"I was very, very disappointed to even think we'd have individuals that would take this kind of action," Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess told News 2 Monday.
"We are going to do everything possible to find out who is responsible and when we do, we should take every action to prosecute to the fullest extent because this is a crime that can not be tolerated," he continued.
While some in the community oppose the new Islamic center because it would create traffic problems in the area, others have implied that the mosque could be a haven for terrorists.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has operated for 30 years in a smaller facility downtown with no problems until now.
The recent incidents have put Murfreesboro in the national spotlight, but it's not the kind of attention it wants.
"It doesn't go away because a few people who keep doing these very kinds of things, keep fueling the whole fire," said Mayor Burgess.
He said he believes people who live outside of the county could be responsible for the crimes.
The ATF, FBI and Rutherford County Sheriff's Department are investigating.