The city of Dearborn has always offered Pastor Terry Jones the opportunity to exercise his right to free speech, and so his announcement to return to Dearborn on April 29 to protest in one of the city’s permit-free zones is consistent with Dearborn’s position all along.
The city is not anticipating any pre-determined outcome to Jones’ protest on Friday. The city will be preparing appropriately to manage the large crowds that may be drawn to support or counter Jones’ message.
Since the content of Jones’ message has never been the issue, the city also believes it is on solid ground regarding potential legal challenges to any action it has taken so far.
Jones has been given due process under the law at every step from the moment he filed his application to protest in Dearborn, initially set for April 22.
I have praised Dearborn residents for their measured response to Jones last week, and for their participation in events promoting the unity of the community.
On Friday, a peaceful gathering at the Henry Ford Centennial Library, one of the city’s designated permit-free zones, attracted about 400 people.
On Thursday, 700 to 900 people participated in an event at the Islamic Center of America, organized by the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
This week, I encourage residents to continue to focus on the community’s unity and respect for all of the faith traditions.
Because of the high-profile of this case, people may be learning about Dearborn from misinformed sources, so the community’s positive actions will paint an accurate picture of a united Dearborn.
It is important for residents to understand what happened last week amid the whirlwind surrounding the plans of Pastor Jones to hold his demonstration on April 22.
The dizzying details may have left some with legitimate questions about what really took place.
I’ve been approached by a number of Dearborn citizens who were confused by what happened last week and why. So, as we look ahead to the pastor’s announced return on April 29, I thought I should try to clarify what has occurred so far.
• Dearborn never questioned the pastor’s right to exercise free speech. The question we differed on was where this demonstration should take place in order to protect both the pastor’s rights as well as the rights of those wishing to observe religious services.
• The pastor’s preferred location was on a grassy area near Altar Road, a two-lane road with limited access serving four Christian churches, which, on April 22, were hosting Good Friday services. The road also serves a mosque, which hosted weekly prayer services on April 22.
• This location does not have any public parking or public sidewalks, and is adjacent to the six-lane Ford Road. The grassy area is not designed for human occupation.
• The city requires groups that want to hold special events not on public sidewalks or permit-free zones to apply for a special event permit with the police department. The department looks at public safety concerns and logistics to minimize the impact on adjacent property owners and traffic, amid other concerns.
• The city has areas in which no permit is required for a special event. These zones provided high visibility, can accommodate large crowds and have plenty of public parking, including for supporters and the media.
• The city denied Jones’ special event application for Altar Road, but referred him to City Hall, one of the permit-free zones.
• Jones said publicly that he intended to protest at the Altar Road site despite the city’s denial of the permit. Jones has not appealed the denial.
• Other groups also applied for special event permits at the Altar Road site and were denied. They were referred to the permit-free zones.
• Meanwhile, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on April 15 initiated a process in 19th District Court to determine if Jones should pay for a “peace bond.”
• A jury decided the “preponderance of evidence” showed that Jones and his associate, Wayne Sapp, would likely cause a breach of peace if they protested at the Altar Road site on April 22 at the time that they chose.
• This verdict prompted the judge to set the conditions of the peace bond. He set the amount at $1 for each man. He also set a condition that neither man visit the planned protest site or the Islamic Center of America for three years.
• Jones and Sapp refused to pay the $1 bond. So they were initially taken into custody to be processed for the Wayne County Jail.
• During the processing, each agreed to pay the $1 and were released Friday night.
• Jones later announced he would return to Dearborn for a protest on Friday, April 29.