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Arab International Festival Gets City Approval Following Heated Debate

The 2012 festival will take place June 15-17 on Warren Avenue.

The Arab International Festival will once again happen in Dearborn this June–but approval of the event didn’t come without a fight.

City Council on Tuesday gave approval for the festival to take place June 15-17 along Warren Avenue, conditional upon the signing of an agreement that the city will take a backseat to Wayne County in terms of providing police support for the event.

In May 2011, the city told the –which organizes the event–that they would have to .

Festival organizers were able to provide their own clean-up, while the Wayne County Sherriff’s Office provided security, and .

But at a meeting held April 19, the chamber and the city butted heads once again over police presence, and the location of the festival.

Mayor Jack O’Reilly asked that they consider a closed site, such as , which would protect the city from a situation similar to the 2009 festival, where a Christian evangelist was kicked out. The man, Sudanese Christian Pastor George Saieg, later sued the city for violating his free speech rights by not allowing him to speak on public sidewalks and won.

If the festival was held at a closed site, organizers could preclude anyone but festival attendees from entering.

“Dearborn fully supports the festival,” O’Reilly said. “It’s the location that is the issue.”

Festival organizers said a location switch would defeat the purpose of the event, which–beyond celebrating the Arab community–is spurring interest in local businesses along Warren Avenue.

“An alternative site is not possible,” said chamber Chairman Ahmad Chebbani. “The intention of the festival is to promote economic growth to the area, and we want to stick to those objectives.”

“It’s possible,” O’Reilly retorted. “You just choose not to do it.”

Regardless of the disagreement over the site location, it was decided that if the county would indemnify the city, thus taking full responsibility for primary security at the event, that the city would approve it.

“In an open site, things can get out of hand,” said Councilman David Bazzy. “It’s not right for the city to bear the brunt of that risk. But if the county is willing to indemnify the city, then I think we have no issues.”

Last year, things did get out of hand when festival attendees and anti-Muslim protesters clashed. as Wayne County and Detroit police attempted to control the situation.

The county has verbally agreed to serve as the first tier of protection at the festival, as they did last year. The Wayne County Sherriff’s Department, the American Arab Chamber and the city must now sign official paperwork stating the same. The Dearborn Police Department will not have officers inside the festival unless the county calls them in as backup.

Chamber representatives said they were comfortable with that arrangement, and were vehement that the festival should continue, regardless of the presence of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab protesters that have shown up in recent years.

“This is an essential community event,” said chamber board member Ali Dagher. “We’re not going to cower to extremists.”

cheryl April 25, 2012 at 01:11 PM
O'Reilly is so misinformed for a mayor...ok, I'm rather tired of getting preached at when I go to Homecoming, so why don't you prevent those evangelists from attending? What's that? Oh, yes, Ford Field is a PUBLIC PARK. As is Ford Woods. You can't prevent them from attending. And this would never become an issue if O'Reilly and his merry men (I don't know about the Hype folks...my son was a coach for Hype for years and I never heard of "doing security" at the Arab International Festival, but then again, he's not Arabic, so maybe he wasn't invited to be part of the fun) would understand free speech and just ignore the idiots UNLESS their behavior becomes harassment, which it appears it never did.
Want to be a former Dearborn Resident April 25, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Free speech in Dearborn does not exist unless your are an Arab.
M. Imsosure April 25, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Cheryl, I was thinking exactly the same thing about Homecoming when I read about the mayor's remarks about closed site. Uninformed?, bad memory? That's unfortunately our mayor.
Your taxes pay my salary April 25, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Ali Sayed and his group of cronies are the ones that first started the disturbance at the festival in 2009.
AC April 25, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I don't believe the city should bar anyone from attending, nor do they have the right to. Anyone is welcome, and regardless of how incendiary or distasteful their message may be, they have every right to propagate it. And if any attendees of the festival become violent or confrontational, then they should be arrested. Someone needs to inform the mayor that his citizens are not a bunch of kids and can handle a street festival. The mayor is clueless and condescending.
AC April 25, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Why don't you be what your name says? I'll start a collection to help you get out. I'll even loan you a moving truck.
City of Dearborn (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 04:35 PM
It seemed like they were having technical problems all evening. There was actually about an hour of public discussion after the regular meeting with issues brought up by several residents - we'll be covering several of them in stories soon!
Happy In Dearborn April 25, 2012 at 04:36 PM
We didn't loose TV coverage where I was watching, sounds like a localized/neighborhood cable line issue. Who's your cable provider? You may want to call them to have the line checked.
Donna Hay April 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Jessica - I plan on watching the rerun tonight at 7:00 and hope that they show the final hour. That's always the best part of the meeting! Need to see again what happened between Tom T and the mayor just before the meeting started - they were having 'words'.
Bob April 25, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I have never agreed with the fact that they close the entire street down for this festival. I remember seeing on the news in past years how closing the street disrupts other businesses on Warren. I remember a pizza place saying they had to close because they couldn't get their cars in and out to make deliveries and I believe a dry cleaners also had to close due to lack of business because of the festival. I guess the festival doesn't really "promote economic growth" for all the businesses on Warren. It also doesn't sound like everything is policed very well. Last night at the City Council Meeting a resident mentioned how when people are trying to leave the festival they speed down the medians and on the sidewalks. This resident also mentioned how he couldn't go home until after the festival because there was no where for him to park in front of his house and he didn't have a driveway. The City should do something about that. Moving the festival to a better suited area such as Ford Woods or even Ford Field would help to solve all of these issues and make the event much safer for everyone.
Rita Dennaoui April 25, 2012 at 05:20 PM
As an Arab American, I can't help but agree with the same comments many of you have made. Yes, since I speak with no accent, and do not cover, I call for help I am seen as a Western. On the days of the festival, I park my car in the street and move at midnight to my garage. I cannot stand the music, and personally, there is nothing attractive about W Warren. Mr. Mayor either you misinformed or a bid chicken. As for those lovely people on the Chamber of Commerece, maybe they can hire their children and relatives to protect their so call city Dearborn, making one feel that they are the only one's paying taxes. Leave our PD alone.
Frank Lee April 25, 2012 at 05:23 PM
When will this mayor ever learn? Why does the Arab festival, pools, library, historical commission, and now firemen have to jump through hoops, and move heaven and hell to preserve their existence but this Mayor's projects are all grant funded and profitable. It is time the Dearborn citizens demand an independent forensic audit of the cities financial situation. Maybe the Arab festival needs some improvements, however we should scrutinize Homecoming with the same level of skepticism. Homecoming is a three day rain soaked beer bash that exists as another Oreilly vanity project that serves local politicians needs to preach to a captive audience, and has the same legal and security issues as the Arab Fest.
Rita Dennaoui April 25, 2012 at 05:23 PM
how sad but they are bunch of kids, always looking for daddy to help them. Mr O, Mr. O is not clueless and condescending, he could care less.
Rita Dennaoui April 25, 2012 at 05:23 PM
amen
Youssef April 25, 2012 at 05:57 PM
What the heck does HYPE have to do with the Arab Festival? Plus before you go finger pointing at organizations; please get your facts straight. I love how you go out and call them “THUGS” but have no basis for your claim. 1: It is my understanding that the Chamber hires a private security company, and the security company recruits some paid and some unpaid volunteers to assist with the security detail. (I can’t confirm this though) 2: HYPE is not a security company and does not provide security for anybody, at any time, and is not licensed by the state of Michigan or any other state to act in the capacity of a security company. 3: I do agree that some of the security folks they have there think they have law enforcement powers, and should learn to understand they are not the police, and do not have a right to touch anyone unless their own personal safety is at risk. If you would like more information about HYPE Athletics and the good they do for residents of Wayne County, please refer to their website at www.hypeathletics.org for further information. See Also: http://www.pressandguide.com/articles/2012/04/07/business/doc4f7ed21ea3f1a060335331.txt?viewmode=default By the way: I am not an official with HYPE and I am not acting as a representative of the group in my response to you. In the future please have a reasonable and well thought out basis for your attacks on organization such as HYPE.
City of Dearborn (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I got a better answer on the CDTV question, Donna. This is the city's response: "We have checked and are extremely confident that we had no broadcast problems from City Hall. The person commenting may have had a localized issue related to their cable service provider. For those who had problems with viewing the council meeting for whatever reason, we do have the entire meeting, including the public discussion issues that were not part of the official agenda. Starting at 5 p.m. today, the meeting in its entirety can be seen on http://cdtv.pegcentral.com/ . It will be part of the regular CDTV rebroadcast schedule, with the first rebroadcast at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (today)." I guess the technical problem I saw was not a flickering TV, but a flickering light. Hope that helps!
Youssef April 25, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Your taxes pay my salary: You lack any intelligence, since when does HYPE provide security for ayone? Want to be a former Dearborn Resident: Dearborn doesnt let anyone speak on their city streets without a fee/cost/liability waiver and i think its wrong. Unfortunatley, many times with the arab community, instead of taking the city to court for violations of the 1st ammendment; yields into their silly requirements and signs away their rights every time they want to hold an event, giving up their right to assemble freely. I have freinds that recieved bills to cover the police department's overtime costs. so you are a little mistaken about your comment.
Youssef April 25, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I wiah there was a like button on this forum. Well stated Frank!
marooned in Dbn April 25, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I have lived in Dbn since 1982. I have never been to the so-called Dbn Homecoming. What's there for me to homecome to ? As for the Arabic festival. Last year my wife and kids missed the festival because they were in Lebanon for that month.When they came back to the "states". I told them of the trouble there ,and they said that they dont miss it anymore because they felt the atmosphere of the festival has gone down hill.
Bob April 25, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I totally agree with you on Homecoming as well Frank. It could also be improved. I'm still waiting for the City to publish their Homecoming 2011 Report they promised last year to prove no tax money is being used to support the festival. I really find that hard to believe with all the overtime and double time the City employees work during Homecoming. I'm interested in seeing that dollar figure. It's been over eight months since Homecoming and I haven't seen any mention of the report whatsoever. Maybe Patch could do a follow-up article? You would think eight months is ample time to compile the data and it would be nice to hear the summary of 2011 before Homecoming 2012 is upon us. At least, that would be the responsible thing to do, to follow up with your promises.
City of Dearborn (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 06:56 PM
If the event was at a "closed site" with set entrances where, say, people either had to pay or get their hands stamped for entry, they could better monitor who comes into the site. However, because the festival is on Warren Avenue and people can walk in and out freely, my understanding is that they can't treat it any differently than a normal business day. And the court stated in the George Saieg lawsuit that they can't prohibit anyone from protesting or giving out literature on public sidewalks.
laplateau April 25, 2012 at 07:45 PM
I think it's time for us to come up with some acronyms designed for the purpose of planting the seeds of thought for getting O'Reilly out of office. So, with that in mind, here's my first thoughts..maybe not so good, but maybe something as food for thought. How about GOON (Get O"Reilly Out Now) or GROAN (Get Rid Of Oreilly And Now) I know, it has an extra O or ROOT (Run O'Reilly Out Of Town) Yeah, another extra O Anyone have other ideas? I can just see the bumper stickers now...LOL!
M. Imsosure April 25, 2012 at 09:37 PM
HA HA, great!!
Lee Jacobsen April 25, 2012 at 11:47 PM
A house without a driveway in Dearborn? Make that a trivia question on where it's located. Perhaps a 'townhouse' , but not a residence.
Lee Jacobsen April 25, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Homecoming is a festival that began as a way to get past high school alumni back together, and turned into a party that is fun, if you want it to be. Just the fireworks alone are worth attending in the evening, and all 'Americans' are welcome to attend. You are missing a fun time by not at least attending once.
laplateau April 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Hey...guess what? NONE of the community access channels are working tonight....just when a re-broadcast of last night's Arab Festival discussion was scheduled for airing. Is it a conspiracy with Comcast and O'Reilly???????????
Donna Hay April 26, 2012 at 12:08 AM
FYI - Comcast channel 12 (city channel) is out again - the first part of the council meeting was availabe but the station went out about 7:30. Called Comcast and they don't seem to know what the problem it. (Wednesday 4-25).
Ricardo April 26, 2012 at 01:02 AM
I don't care where it is, just point me to the shwarma booth. Extra garlic. Side order of falafel.
Your taxes pay my salary April 26, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Lee I guess you have never been in east Dearborn.
t April 30, 2012 at 08:25 PM
AC must be a mooslim. they hate free speech and would run you out of town if possible. They hate it because in the market place of ideas- all ideas are wilcome at the table- the idea being that the best ideas will win out. But wit all ideas on the table we must expose the nature of islaic idealogy and the history of the nature of the wicked pervert mohammed. There simply is not way to square mohammed lifestyle and seual conduct with the idea that he was of God. From all of the evidence one could only draw the conclusion that eh was from the devil. He was a murderer, liar, rapist, polygamist, adulterer, pedophile and married his own cousin. I read latley that he also had relations with the corpse of his aunt. Yes If I had these skeletins in my closet i would want to run you out of town and destroy the first amendment too.

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