I spent the weekend in Dearborn, MI, home to the largest Arab population per capita in the US for a city its size. It’s become something of a battleground for religious free speech issues lately. Although I was there conducting research for another project I reported back to The Revealer on some of the more interesting moments of the day. Here’s the first bit, the rest is at the link:
Yesterday Terry Jones held another rally in Dearborn, Michigan, outside the Arab International Festival, to raise awareness for the encroachment of Islam in America. Abby Ohlheiser was there.
This was the plan: Terry Jones would speak at City Hall then march with his supporters up to the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn, MI, a city with one of the largest Arab populations in the country. The walk is 13 blocks. He got half a block before police put him in a car. Six protesters from the affirmative action group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) were arrested. The rest stood in his path, yelling, getting as close as they could without touching. Jones wore a bullet proof vest under his white t-shirt, as did his friend and fellow speaker pastor Wayne Sapp.
Last time Jones was in Dearborn, he was pelted with shoes and water bottles, something repeatedly referenced today. But he keeps coming back. Regardless of the angle, there’s something going on here, some importance perceived by, at least, Jones, that his message be heard in this place at this time. He’s going to return again, he said, even after the mob. And likewise, his presence makes Dearborn a site for others–his detractors, his supporters with side causes of their own–to get attention for their messages.
Before the rally began, Jones asked his supporters to join him for a pep talk. “If you’re taking a stand with us we’d like you up to the fence real quick,” he said. Jones told the small gathered crowd, maybe 30 people, about the size of the counter protest (and the media presence, who were pushed against the edge of the press pen trying to hear), “What’s very important is that we will not in any way retaliate…in every sense they will see god’s love and patience.” No one on Jones’s side was arrested or injured, but adrenaline was pumping through many of his supporters. His speech is more polished this visit–he’s learned a lot about public speaking and media interaction–but he’s still folksy. He says “Muslim” with an o sound, “Moslem.” And he still has the distinctively Jones facial hair he had back when he threatened to burn a Qur’an and everyone listened.