By SHERRI KOLADE
DEARBORN — The Arab American Chamber of Commerce can move forward with festival plans after the Dearborn City Council voted April 24 to approve holding the 17th Arab International Festival on Warren Avenue, after some debate about where the event should be held.
The approval is contingent on the Chamber signing documents and agreeing to requirements that relieve the city of legal obligations such as police enforcement, unless there are extraordinary conditions that require police assistance. Otherwise the Wayne County Sheriff’s office will provide police enforcement.
The Arab American Chamber of Commerce organizes the festival, which will take place June 15 through June 17, and they pushed to have the event where it has always been located on Warren Avenue, instead of the area suggested by Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., at Ford Woods Park, a closed site where foot traffic could be monitored.
O’Reilly suggested the space because it could cover the city against any legal suits or altercations. In 2009, five people were arrested and a Christian pastor from Sudan, George Saieg spoke about Christianity and was kicked out of the festival. He later sued the city for violating his freedom of speech rights and won.
Negeen Mayel, an 18-year-old Texas college student at the time, was charged with failing to obey a police officer and allegedly caused a disturbance at the festival while distributing literature.
O’Reilly said Dearborn supports the festival the location was a potential problem, he said in published reports.
Councilman David Bazzy said in an open site things can get out of hand.
“It’s not right for the city to bear the brunt of that risk,” Bazzy said.
City attorneys said the Chamber will be fully required to reimburse Dearborn of any expenses to the city.
To save the city money, the Chamber will make private arrangements for cleanup as well as provide vendors for the festival.
American Arab Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Fay Beydoun said the Commerce is glad about the approval.
“We are pleased that the city has approved the permit for the festival on Warren Avenue,” she said by email. “The festival celebrates our heritage and cultural diversity while promoting entertainment and promoting the Warren Avenue Business District.”
City attorneys could not be reached for comment by press time.