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?