A national anti-Muslim group has announced that it will have a presence at the in Dearborn this weekend–and is asking police to ensure that their free speech rights are protected.
The organization, known as the Bible Believers, caused a stir at the 2011 festival when a crowd of counter-protesters gathered around them. The situation .
Bible Believers leader Ruben Israel told Dearborn Patch this week that the group will return to Dearborn to “preach” at the festival on Friday and Sunday. But concerns have arisen that the group will not be properly protected.
According to Israel, the group hired the Memphis-based Center for Religious Expression to assert their free speech rights. An attorney from the center sent a letter to Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, notifying them of the Bible Believers’ intentions.
“We fully expect and demand Wayne County Sheriff’s Department to protect Israel and his friends from physical assaults and allow Israel and his friends to engage in their peaceful expression,” the letter reads.
Israel said that they have received no response, and that if they are not protected or are arrested, “there will be a big lawsuit.”
The lawsuit, he contended, would be filed against both Wayne County and the City of Dearborn.
City Attorney Debra Walling, however, maintains that the city has done all it can to detach itself from the festival in terms of law enforcement responsibility.
An agreement signed by Sheriff Napoleon in April , and agreed that Wayne County would take full responsibility for police presence at the festival.
The letter from the Center for Religious Expression maintains that last year, when counter-protesters grew unruly in response to the Bible Believers’ signs–which said such things as “Islam is a religion of blood and murder”–Wayne County officers “took the side of the violent Muslims and ordered Israel and his friends to stop their expression.”
Israel added that the problem is the event, not his group.
“If they can’t handle it, they should call in the National Guard or remove the event,” he said. “All we’re asking for is our right to stand on the sidewalk.”
The city of Dearborn has been sued before for the arrest of protesters at the festival, which led to the decision to allow the county to assume security responsibility.