BY VIOLA KLOCKO, MICHIGAN ADVANCE
HAMTRAMCK—Over 200 LGBTQ people and their allies gathered outside of Hamtramck City Hall at Winfield Park Saturday to express dissent towards Hamtramck City Council’s recent decision to remove the LGBTQ flag from flying on city property.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was among those in attendance, and opened up on the microphone, lambasting Mayor Amer Ghalib.
“I am not a stranger to you, I am not an agitator, I am your attorney general, and yes, I am also gay,” Nessel said. “ … I come here today to implore the government of the city of Hamtramck to repeal its resolution to ban the Pride flag. And to instead pledge to love, support and recognize the dignity and the value of all those who live, visit and do business with Hamtramck.”
Ghalib said this week that the city would not budge in the face of protesters after the all-Muslim City Council this month voted to ban the Pride flag from flying on city properties.
“In the coming days, you will notice strangers demonstrating in your city and disturbing the public peace by provoking you with their actions and behaviors,” Ghalib wrote on Facebook, claiming “they are trying to create chaos, division and disrupt security in the city.”
Nessel noted that Ghalib has said that “banning the pride flag is meant to keep the city ‘neutral’ and ‘impartial’ towards its residents.
“Respectfully, I disagree,” she said. “Banning the pride flag is meant to send the very opposite message: a message of intolerance, hatred, and bigotry. … As it’s said, ‘In situations of injustice, neutrality always favors the oppressor, never the oppressed.’ And as Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly observed: ‘The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict. Anyone who accepts evil, without protesting against it, is one who cooperates with it.’
“And make no mistake: homophobia, transphobia, are indeed forms of evil just as much as Islamophobia is,” Nessel continued.
Nessel ended with an appeal to Hamtramck officials.
“So I ask the city of Hamtramck to use its voice to speak up for all its people,” she said. “Take down the wall you have now built that has made this proud city into a national embarrassment, and raise the flag of equality.”
The crowd cheered as more and more speakers began to filter through. Between speakers, some local musicians performed, and other organizations took the mic to show their support. Adults and children chalked the park with various drawings and slogans aimed in support of the LGBTQ community.
On the other side of Winfield Park, more than a dozen Hamtramck police officers stood in front of Hamtramck City Hall alongside Michigan State Police troopers.
After Planet Ant Theatre Director Darren Shelton’s speech, he sat down and spoke Metro Times. He noted that he had recently noticed an uptick in Hamtramck of hateful behavior, including multiple attempts to tear down the Pride flag that sits atop the Planet Ant marquee. Shelton said he had to bolt the Pride flag more securely to the marquee.
Some patrons of Planet Ant also have reported anti-LGBTQ slurs being directed at them while standing outside while talking to friends or smoking a cigarette, he said.
“It’s been very disheartening to hear all of the terrible things being yelled from car windows passing by,” Shelton said. “… People will say, ‘It’s just a flag; it’s just a flag,’ but it’s about representation. … The big, scary thing is the number of bad players who really feel like it is their job to step up in a militant way to fight back [against LGBTQ people] with hatred and violence.”
Shelton said he’s happy that the mood of the rally has been one of love and peace.
“This rally is such a loving thing. You can’t come here and say that this is a hateful group that’s gonna corrupt the children or anything; it’s not,” Shelton said. “This is a gathering of scores of people who just want love and fair representation in a city that prides itself on diversity and ideals.”
As the event started to wind down, Gracie Cadieux, one of the organizers, grabbed the microphone and noted to the crowd that there’s plenty of art supplies and chalk lying around.
“We’re gonna ask you guys to make this place f–king beautiful,” Cadieux said. “There [is] chalk spread throughout this park. Please, leave it gay as f–k.”
This coverage—which originally appeared in Detroit Metro Times—was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.
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