A planned Quran burning Saturday in Amarillo was thwarted by a 23-year-old carrying a skateboard and wearing a T-shirt with "I'm in Repent Amarillo No Joke" scrawled by hand on the back.
Jacob Isom, 23, grabbed David Grisham's Quran when he became distracted while arguing with several residents at Sam Houston Park about the merits of burning the Islamic holy book.
"You're just trying to start Holy Wars," Isom said of Grisham after he gave the book to a religious leader from the Islamic Center of Amarillo.
Said Isom in an interview with News 10: "Snuck up behind him and took his Qur'an. He said something about burning the Qur’an. And I was like, 'Dude, you have no Qur’an,' and ran off.”
Grisham, director of Repent Amarillo, which aims to deter promiscuity, homosexuality and non-Christian worship practices through confrontation and prayer, said he was just trying to exercise his right to free speech.
He announced Friday evening the plan to burn copies of the Quran to show support for the Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Fla., who planned, publicized, then canceled his own Quran burning event after a national uproar.
Jones told NBC Saturday "we feel that God is telling us to stop" the Quran burning, which had stirred outrage among millions of Muslims and others worldwide.
More than 200 people, many packing signs, crowded into Sam Houston Park Saturday to either support or protest Grisham's plan to burn the Quran.
Amarillo police circled the block in cruisers and several officers in street clothes stood among attendees in case the crowd turned violent.
Jeremy Danielson of Amarillo, who attended with other members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, carried a "Love Thy Enemy" sign.
"Any time you burn books, that's ignorant," Danielson said. "For us to burn their religion is showing hate."
Protesters threw their hands on the grill Grisham planned to use to burn the Quran, someone took his lighter and Isom stole the Quran, leaving him with just lighter fluid.
"I kind of expected the reaction," Grisham said of the turnout.
As the crowd jeered, Grisham got into a car and left peacefully without burning any copies of the holy book.
Dennis Cobbins, an imam at the Islamic Center of Amarillo, said he came as an American Muslim "very concerned about what was taking place here."
He said he didn't know quite what to expect when he arrived at the planned burning he described as "distasteful." He found the amount of crowd support "a little bit overwhelming."
"The city we live in has zero tolerance for bigotry," he said.
Cobbins invited any Amarillo residents who want to learn more about Islam to attend worship at the mosque, 601 Quail Creek Drive.
Amarillo resident Nancy O'Gorman said she was shocked by the size of the turnout and initially thought she might be alone in her opposition.
"Just to be on the side of freedom," she said. "I couldn't see it (the burning) being done. It's mean."