Members of ACT for America, which has been labelled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, gathered in parks and plazas across the US, organising nearly two dozen so-called March Against Sharia rallies on Saturday. However, the rallies drew counter protests by Muslim leaders and political groups which created a day of tense opposition between two banks of protestors separated by line of law enforcement.

While rifle wielding men in camouflage and battle fatigue showed up to ostensibly “protect” the anti-sharia protestors and some counter-protestors wielded makeshift clubs and shields, the protests remained peaceful even as both sides exchanged heated arguments. The surprising – and encouraging – element of this otherwise divisive event is the fact that the counter protestors far outnumbered the anti-sharia rallies. In other places like Austin, permission to march was denied by state authorities, and local politicians – like the mayor of Austin – joined the ranks of the protestors preaching tolerance by holding up banners saying “Muslims are welcome”.

ACT for America is the largest anti-Islam group in the US and the drowning out of its narrative in such a fashion suggests that support for tolerance exceeds hate and bigotry – a fact that runs counter to the recent election of Donald Trump as president. The Republican based a large part of his campaign on anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant rhetoric, which saw him draw large crowds and votes across the nation. The expectation then, would be for the anti-sharia protests to overshadow any other narrative.

But support for tolerance and diversity from ordinary Americans has surprised the current administration and continues to surprise observers. As we saw in the immediate aftermath of the travel ban, large sections of the society are willing to step up to stand against bigotry. They may be drawn from the grassroots and in the minority in the political setup, but it will continue to exert pressure against the government narrative.