Violence at Dearborn Arab Festival


Dearborn, Michigan has the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East (though many of them are Chaldean Christians) and the city hosts the International Arab Festival each summer. The last few years have seen protests, arrests and lawsuits, but not violence until this year. The Detroit Free Press reports on what happened:

Tensions flared Friday evening at the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn as members of some Christian missionary groups — including one called the Bible Believers — taunted Arab Americans with a pig’s head and signs that promoted hatred of Islam.

“You’re gonna burn in hell,” one missionary shouted at a group of young Arab-American boys listening to him speak on Warren Avenue, where the festival takes place.

The festival continues today in Dearborn, but the members of the Bible Believers won’t be there because they’ll be protesting a gay festival in Ohio, said Arab Festival organizers.

I’ve written about this for the Michigan Messenger the last few years. The city of Dearborn has had a real problem handling the protests, which has resulted in several lawsuits — all of which the city lost because they were clearly violating the First Amendment. They’ve tried to forbid Christian groups from handing out pamphlets and they’ve arrested missionaries who had done nothing illegal. In the wake of those losses, this year the city did not attempt to stop Christian groups from protesting and those protests seem to have gotten much more confrontational than in past years. Here’s a video from a local TV station that shows some of the signs and show them screaming at festival goers and some of the attendees reacting angrily.

I don’t believe this group, Bible Believers, was protesting last year (another group, called Acts 17 Apologetics, was there and several people were arrested when they shouldn’t have). It’s impossible to know, at this point, who started the violence. The signs that the protesters had were pretty vile, but they’re still protected by the First Amendment. If some of the festival goers started the violence by throwing things at the protesters, they are the ones who broke the law. But it’s probably important to note that the arrests here were made by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, not the Dearborn PD; it was the Dearborn PD that has made the unjustified arrests in past years. The sheriff’s department says one of the protesters started the violence. That will be tried in court, as it should be.

But I also just have to wonder what the protesters think they’re going to accomplish here. These are the same kind of people who were at the Reason Rally and they do this sort of thing at other events all over the country. Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

Comments

  1. Stevarious says

    Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

    Of course not.

    The point is that, if the muslims reject the message of christ under any circumstances, then they are rejecting jesus in pride and therefore deserve hell. But to reject it, they have to first be presented with it, and so the protesters.

    These protests are about the christians justifying for themselves the righteousness of sending muslims to hell. It’s not at all about saving anybody.

  2. rork says

    Tribal crap. We’ve had haters of our Arabic speaking people since well before 9/11. It makes me so ashamed. To be a human.

  3. eric says

    I’m surprised a pig head is legal. I would’ve thought laws about animal parts or food safety would come into play.

    I could also imagine that if it keeps getting worse, the authorities would be justified in setting up some time/place/manner restrictions. Similar to abortion clinics – you can’t impede traffic to and from the event, and if the public space is limited, we’re only going to allow a limited number of protesters to occupy it.

    Last thought – that last quoted paragraph was somewhat amusing. Going with “the solution to bad speech is more speech,” the solution here seems to be to have multiple festivals (that upset these idiots) on the same day, and force them to divide their efforts. Maybe next year there will also be a communistfest, wiccanfest, United Nationfest, and hebrewfest held the same weekend. That would really flummox the bigots.

  4. raven says

    Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

    Xians, making atheists since 33 CE.

    These sorts of xians and there are tens of millions of them make more atheists in a day than Dawkins and Myers do in a year.

    taunted Arab Americans with a pig’s head

    Well that convinces me. Some moronic hater waving a pig’s head around. I’m reconverting to xianity right now!!!

  5. anat says

    Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

    I doubt they expect anyone to change their beliefs, but they might be hoping they’ll stop having festivals that place those ‘others’ in public view.

  6. lynxreign says

    But I also just have to wonder what the protesters think they’re going to accomplish here.

    I think it is pretty obvious, it is the same they’re hoping everywhere they do this kind of thing. They’re hoping to either scare people away or incite violence. Either would be a victory for them. Fear, hate and violence is all they understand.

    The signs that the protesters had were pretty vile, but they’re still protected by the First Amendment.

    So what’s an appropriate remedy here? Sure, the signs and even the screaming at attendees are all protected by the first amendment, but here’s a situation where the “more speech” remedy isn’t going to do a damn thing in the short term and only has a chance of working over generations. If nothing can be done to stop these “protesters” the attendees have limited choices.
    Suffer
    Leave
    Try and ignore it somehow (likely same as Suffer)

    We’ve seen since the 80s the damage that can be done to the whole nation by bigots and liars with loud voices and media platforms. What’s the answer? Just accept that zealots and the wealthy will always outshout everyone else so we better learn to live with the results? I love the First Amendment, but it is horribly abused and we all suffer as a result.

  7. opyros says

    Over on Slacktivist a commenter pointed out that these protesters with their pig head on a stick were unwittingly reenacting a scene from Lord of the Flies.

  8. slc1 says

    It is my understanding that Dearborn has a large population of Christian Arabs, mostly from Lebanon.

  9. sheila says

    “But I also just have to wonder what the protesters think they’re going to accomplish here.”

    A feeling of self-righteousness perhaps?

  10. Didaktylos says

    Of course if was atheist dickheads doing the protesting, they’d be waving cans of beer at them …

  11. wscott says

    @ Stevarious: Exactly. It’s all about making yourself feel superior.

    To be fair, I think the same could be said of a lot of protest activity, not just right-wing theocrats. I had to walk past a 9-11 conspiracy nut protest a few months back that used similar tactics. (No pig’s head, tho.) Not even a pretense of trying to engage or persuade; just yelling over megaphones to make themselves feel better.

  12. d cwilson says

    Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

    Their goal is not to convert anyone. It’s just to make things so miserable for the “other” that they eventually self-deport from “their” country.

    Besides, Arabs are from the Middle East and we all know that Middle Easterners cannot be True Christians ™.

  13. beergoggles says

    I’m guessing hell has some significance to Muslims because they share the same delusional sky fairy with Xtians. So I can see the arguments getting more heated than Xtians condemning atheists, who don’t believe in JC or hell, to hell. I also think it’s hilarious that they went to protest the gays – gays can automatically win any argument against an Xtian protester by making out in front of them.

  14. twincats says

    Besides, Arabs are from the Middle East and we all know that Middle Easterners cannot be True Christians ™.

    I would like to rebut that anecdotally. My dad lives across the street from a Coptic Christian family from Egypt. The man turned out to be an ardent birther and also convinced that Obama is a Muslim. He also believed that there is a religious test for public office and that was another reason to oust Obama.

    I did my best to set him straight, but I have my doubts about how successful I was.

  15. says

    What? Next year there will be a HUNDRED of them?

    Simple solution: Go to whatever church they gather at before they descend as a hoard of dozens and tow all their cars. Assuming they are double parked. Because they are. Because the city council places a statutory ban on parking in that neighborhood during a midnight session. This is how these things are handled.

  16. says

    Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

    Sure! They think it’s going to convince their co-religonists that they are really faithful assholes … er … Christians. It’s not unlike ancient Britons (and present day football fans) painting themselves blue. If they weren’t in a group with their fellow tribesmen and women, they probably wouldn’t say “boo” to an arab.

  17. John Hinkle says

    I didn’t see this, though it was implied throughout Ed’s post and the comments. Arabs are not necessarily Muslims. Many Arabs are Christians. For a Christian group to protest an Arab event with anti-Islam nonsense is… well, nonsense. They might as well have a sign that says “Get a Brain, Moran” (Comma not supplied by original sign maker).

  18. harold says

    Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

    That’s a BIG silver lining.

    They aren’t convincing anyone of anything and they’re turning off millions of people. That is good.

  19. says

    The protestors seem to be using some sort of amplified sound system to drown out everyone else. I’m pretty sure that the city can stop that.

  20. jesse says

    Speech wise, this may be something that falls in a bit of a gray area.

    I’ve mentioned this before: some people aren’t engaging in speech, per se, they are trying to scare and intimidate. I love the first Amendment too, but if John Gotti came to your store and said, “You know, in my opinion, this place needs some better protection, and it would sure be a shame if anything happened” I don’t think you’d accept a First Amendment defense.

    When the Klan or neo-Nazis parades through a black neighborhood, the whole point is to incite violence, or, failing that, scare people with the very real threat of violence. Marching out in force like that isn’t just expressing their views, it’s a way of saying “we are able to do this and you can’t do a thing about it, and next time we might just kill a few of you in the night.” That’s what they call a “show of force.”

    And by the way, until the 1960s and 70s, such incidents were not uncommon.

    These folks are attempting (with less discipline) to do something similar. They are trying to scare people. And the threat of violence from people like that is very real. The problem is that the law only considers threats assault when they are directed at a specific person. If I say “We should kill the (insert group here)” the cops can’t do a thing until I actually do it, when it’s a bit too late.

    Luckily these protesters in Dearborn aren’t quite so powerful. But one day a disciplined group will show up. What then?

  21. laurentweppe says

    But I also just have to wonder what the protesters think they’re going to accomplish here.

    Start a fight, show a few of them with bruises and black eyes, then claim with falsetto voices “See, we told you, Arab are eeeeeeevil, and viiiiiiiiolent, so they should not be allowed to breath the same air than Us”

    ***

    Marching out in force like that isn’t just expressing their views, it’s a way of saying “we are able to do this and you can’t do a thing about it, and next time we might just kill a few of you in the night.”

    And then people criticize my country for making this kind of crap illegal.

    ***

    If I say “We should kill the (insert group here)” the cops can’t do a thing until I actually do it

    Normally, cops should start moving when one starts calling for mass murder. Most of the time, group like Bible Believers either use tangantial coded messages like “We’re not saying that we want to kill these people, we’re just saying that they do stuff done by people who may deserve to be killed” or “Make no mistake: if we see [Group X, Y, Z] becoming a threat to our culture and way of life, we will not hesistate to defend ourselves” were “threat” means “they’re not submissive enough” and defend ourselves means “slaughter them all”.

  22. says

    Greg Laden said:

    Simple solution: Go to whatever church they gather at before they descend as a hoard of dozens and tow all their cars. Assuming they are double parked. Because they are. Because the city council places a statutory ban on parking in that neighborhood during a midnight session. This is how these things are handled.

    If you’re morally bereft, perhaps. People who honor freedom of speech do not attempt to physically intervene, legally or otherwise, to prevent others from making speech they don’t like.

  23. dan4 says

    @27: “You’re gonna burn in hell” is a wee big stronger than “ridicule,” Jim. Anyway, I don’t recall atheists using their ridicule against people who might be atheists themselves (the equivalency of the possibility here that, as many of the commentators on this thread have already implied, some of the International Arab Festival participants are Christians themselves).

  24. raven says

    We can be thankful that atheists don’t use ridicule!

    Fallacy of false equivalence.

    Ridiculing the hate, lies, and hypocrisy of xians on a blog isn’t at all like showing up at an Arab street festival, waving a pig’s head around, and screaming, “You are all going to hell”.

    It isn’t like sponsoring and suporting xian terrorism, a serious problem in the USA for decades.

    It isn’t like the hundreds of children killed in fundie xian human sacrifice rituals, by torture murder or medical neglect.

    Hardly a day goes by without, yet again, another xian atrocity.

    We can though be thankful we aren’t fundie xians or have a brain as defective as jimchristensen.

  25. davem says

    Th irony here is that a pigs head should be just as offensive to Christians as it is to Jews and Muslims. After all, pigs are an ‘abomination unto the Lord’ and are to be avoided like the plague.

  26. dingojack says

    I don’t remember Jesus saying anything about pigs, then again, he didn’t say a word about homsexuality either – but fundies don’t let facts get in the way of a good screaming tantrum …
    Dingo

  27. matty1 says

    I don’t remember Jesus saying anything about pigs

    He did drive a herd of them off a cliff using demons, apparently with no thought of compensating the owner. That sounds like pretty strong disapproval to me.

  28. says

    With protesters like those, I am always tempted to stand there with a sign that says, “For fucks sake, we KNOW already!”

    If they really think they are telling people something they’ve never heard before (in America!) then they are dense beyond belief. If they think the people they are yelling at know what they people already, then they are just being self-aggrandizing jerks.

    I know which one *my* money’s going to be on.

  29. says

    Well, a lot of the Ayrabs might be christians, but someathem are darkishsorts, too. Not that racism would ever inform the speech or actions of the KKKristonazis.

  30. dingojack says

    Matty1 – Jesus said nothing of pigs, all he said was ‘Go’ (Matthew says).
    Dingo

  31. says

    Yes, their speech is protected by the First Amendment . . . but maybe it shouldn’t be. From being a First Amendment absolutist, I have to confess I’m getting less and less tolerant of hate speech as I get older. Demonizing or bestializing a group of people facilitates, and sometimes directly incites, violence against them–up to and including murder–and the speech itself has no compensatory value that a rational person could respect.

    For me, it’s one of the perennial mysteries of First Amendment jurisprudence that sexual expression (even if entirely nonviolent) can be deemed obscenity, and therefore constitutionally unprotected–while any hatemonger can spew to his heart’s content.

    Once I would been horrified at the thought of giving government actors the power to determine what is, and isn’t hate speech. Now, not so much.

    At this point, I wouldn’t be bothered either to see the concept of incitement given real teeth in the US, such as it has in Great Britain. I recall that a Muslim cleric there not long ago received a prison sentence for calling for the deaths of Jews and other “enemies” of Islam. Didn’t upset me in the least.

  32. says

    As a follow-up, I already know what the next argument will be: it would be a worse thing than the evil of hate speech to give that power (of determining what is and isn’t hate speech, and then punishing it) to the inept and overreaching state.

    I’d respond that giving that power to the state would be a bad thing–nothing to celebrate. But I’m becoming less and less convinced that the evil of hate speech isn’t great enough to warrant just that. If hate speech deserves to be criminalized, and I think there’s a good case that it does, the state (unfortunately) is the only means available.

  33. says

    To be fair, the guys with the pig’s head didnt mean to offend any one, they just got muslims confused with Goblins, and thought it would protect them in case of any trouble.

  34. says

    “while any hatemonger can spew to his heart’s content.”

    That’s true, unless one is an atheist, muslim, buddhist or OTHER non-KKKristian.

  35. corkscrew says

    Do they really think screaming “you’re going to hell” at people is going to convince anyone of anything other than that the protesters are assholes?

    Their goal is not to convert anyone. It’s just to make things so miserable for the “other” that they eventually self-deport from “their” country.

    I think you’re giving them too much credit for ideological coherency. I’d say their goal is simply to increase their personal standing within their social group by doing something perceived as courageous: “standing up” to the outsider.

    To everyone within their group, they look like heroes. To everyone outside their group, who doesn’t share their ideas about outsiders and how to handle them, they look like assholes.

    First rule of bullying: it’s not about the victim, it’s about the bully’s friends.

  36. johnhodges says

    As I recall, at the Reason Rally there were several who came prepared to mock and ridicule the expected Xtian protesters at the event. One guy had a T-shirt with FAIL in big letters and an arrow, he just stood silently beside a ranting street preacher. Seriously, I think laughter is a more effective response to such things than suppression.

    The history of protest and regulation of same in the US includes a court case that concluded that it was constitutional to stop speech that had a “clear and present danger” of inciting violence. That’s a very tough standard to meet. The regulation of “time, space, and manner” has often been abused to absurd degrees; the creation of “free speech zones” of 1/4 acre inside a chain-link fence and out of sight or earshot of the target of protest, for example.

  37. greg1466 says

    Come one guys, they’re not trying to convert anyone, they’re just expressing their ‘Christian Love’ for their follow citizens.

Trackbacks

  1. […] You Gotta Love Violent Christians Posted on June 22, 2012 by biguglyjim var addthis_product = 'wpp-264'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true,"data_track_addressbar":false,"ui_language":"en"};var addthis_options = "stumbleupon,email,print";if (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Mark 3:10 is a quotation from Jesus which reads, “Blessed are those what beat the piss outta Ay-rabs, for brown people really piss off God the father”. Okay, maybe that’s a lie. But that was the message of some demonstrators in Dearborn, Michigan. I’ll include the video below, and I heard about this after reading about it on Dispatches From The Culture Wars. […]

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