Council on American-Islamic Relations’ banquet canceled after receiving bomb threats

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The annual banquet has been held at the location for over 10 years.

October 20, 2023, 12:02 PM ET

• 5 min read

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ annual banquet has been canceled after “extremists threatened to plant bombs and kill hotel staff due to CAIR’s support for Palestinian human rights,” the organization announced.

CAIR said the Arlington, Virginia, hotel where it has held its annual banquet every year for over 10 years canceled the event.

The event had been scheduled for Saturday

“We take these threats very seriously and we condemn them and the broader surge in Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiment and racism,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad, a Palestinian-American, said in a video statement.

The Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel received threats from anonymous callers who said they would “plant bombs in the hotel’s parking garage, kill specific hotel staff in their homes and storm the hotel in a repeat of the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol if the events moved forward,” according to CAIR.

CAIR and Marriott met to discuss ongoing threats and concluded that the “volume and specific nature of the threats, combined with the inability to secure additional security from local law enforcement agencies, made it impossible to safely move forward with the events,” CAIR said.

Crystal Gateway Marriott said in a statement to ABC News that it strives to maintain “an environment where everyone feels welcome, respected and included.”

“While ‘welcoming all’ is one of our core tenets, the safety and security of our guests and associates is always our top priority,” a Crystal Gateway Marriott spokesperson said. “After careful consideration, we have determined that we are unable to move forward with an event planned for this weekend due to significant risks to the safety of event attendees, guests and associates.”

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) national executive director Nihad Awad speaks during a news conference, Jan. 30, 2017, in Washington.Alex Brandon/AP, FILE

“We have long hosted groups of various faiths and backgrounds at our hotel. Acceptance of business does not indicate support or endorsement of any group or individual and we remain committed to our overarching value of welcoming all,” the spokesperson added.

The Arlington County Police Department confirmed to ABC News that police responded to the report of a threat at the hotel.

“The Crystal Gateway Marriott reported receiving anonymous phone calls, some referencing threats to bomb, regarding an event scheduled on October 21, 2023,” police told ABC News in a statement.

Police said the investigation remains ongoing.

CAIR said the terror threats came after the organization — the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the country — updated its original banquet programing to “focus on the work needed to support basic Palestinian human rights.”

The theme for the evening is a Night for Solidarity with Palestine, according to Awad.

CAIR said it will throw the banquet at an unannounced alternate location at the same time with heightened security.

“We are not going to be silenced or intimidated by bigots or extremists,” Awad said. “We will continue to do our work to fight for justice and uplift Palestine.”

The deadly Israel-Gaza conflict has heightened tensions in the U.S., with authorities nationwide warning of increased antisemitic and anti-Palestinian activity.

The Department of Homeland Security said it is monitoring events as they unfold in Israel and Gaza, urging faith and community leaders “to be alert, vigilant and prepared.”

ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report

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