Qur’an-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones announced that he will be returning to the city on June 14, but this time he's bringing a gang of motorcyclists with him.
Stand Up America Now, an anti-Islamic group led by Jones that has protested in front of the Islamic Center of America (ICA) and at Edsel Ford High School in previous years, announced that it will be attending a “Dearborn Freedom Rally” hosted by the American Patriotic Bikers. The group’s Facebook page claims that up to 500 motorcyclists are projected to be in Dearborn that day.
However, as of Wednesday afternoon, Dearborn Director of Public Information Mary Laundroche told The Arab American News that Jones and his group have still not submitted a permit to conduct the rally.
Laundroche added that she was aware of a permit for Jones to hold a protest at Camp Dearborn, a park owned by the city in Milford. Paperwork to obtain that permit was never completed.
June 14 is also Flag Day and in Dearborn an annual ceremony is held to burn tattered American flags, in keeping with American Legion protocols for the disposal of flags that are no longer fit for public display.
Via a press release, Jones implied that he once again planned to protest against “Sharia Law” in front of the ICA on Ford Road. The city said the only place Jones and his group can protest without a permit is in front of city hall.
Jones has caused quite a headache for Dearborn in the past. His visit in 2012 led to a federal court ruling against the city for violating his freedom of speech rights. A U.S. District Judge had ruled that the city violated the First Amendment by requesting that Jones sign an indemnification agreement before speaking in front of the Islamic Center of America in 2012.
The ruling prompted the city to change its special events ordinance. A portion requiring a signed indemnification agreement was removed. In a revised ordinance, an event sponsor must provide an insurance certificate or sign a hold harmless agreement with the city unless the event is “constitutionally protected.”
Despite Jones' small victory against the city, his last couple of visits here have received little to no public attention. Local religious leaders have encouraged community members to ignore Jones and his group. The Wayne County Sheriff's Department, Dearborn Police, Dearborn Heights Police, Detroit Police and State Police all collaborated to keep the public safe during Jones' protest at the ICA in 2012.
A protest in front of Edsel Ford High School, where Jones believed Muslim students were implementing “Sharia Law” against non-Muslim students, got no reaction from students or faculty. Classes and after-school activities resumed despite Jones' presence.
However, he did cause controversy during his first visit to the city in 2011, when he was detained by the 19th District Court for a peace bond hearing and a jury determined that he would likely breach the peace. Judge Mark Somers placed a $1 bond on Jones, which he refused to pay until his lawyer bailed him out.
If Stand Up America Now has any reason to celebrate, it's for the cancellation of the Arab International Festival— which would have been held that same weekend— for the second year in a row. On the group's Facebook page, members were celebrating its cancellation. The group had planned to protest at the festival in 2013 before the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, the organizers of the event, announced that the event was cancelled.