Jon King: Dearborn’s Mayor blames anti-book rally on “bad faith actors”
Jon King, covering the event for Michigan Advance, notes criticism of a recent pro-censorship rally in Dearborn.
Abdullah Hammoud, the city’s first Arab-American and Muslim mayor, was responding to a rally last Sunday in front of Dearborn’s Centennial Library in which several hundred protestors, called together by fliers that said “protect our children,” supported a decision by the Dearborn Public Schools to temporarily remove seven titles from their collection, most of them including LGBTQ+ themes and/or characters.
While a district book review committee including parents, teachers and administrators plans to review the titles, rally organizer Stephanie Butler said the books were an effort to “sexualize” children, a charge that has gained national momentum in recent months as attacks against the LGBTQ+ community have been repeatedly made by far-right Republican candidates and groups like Moms For Liberty.
Stephanie Butler insists she has never been a member of Moms for Liberty, but if evidence offered on Twitter is correct, that is a lie.
The rally was touted on social media by Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock. It also coincides with a push during Banned Books Week by GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon to ban what she calls “pornographic” books in schools, although she has not produced any titles, despite multiple media requests for over a week. Dixon is challenging Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Nov. 8.
Sunday’s rally, at which Butler was a featured speaker, featured a litany of anti-LGBTQ+ points of view including one sign that said “Stop grooming students, you sexually perverted animals.”
Hammoud’s response was straightforward and clear.
In response to the protest, Hammoud, a Democratic former state House member, on Tuesday tweeted a message which called libraries “a gateway to knowledge, to imagination, and to possibility,” and then vowed that when it came to the city’s libraries, “for the sake of our children, no book will be removed off the shelves.”
He said that a “false choice” was being presented between parental responsibility and the freedom to learn.
“As a parent and as a Mayor, I believe we can have both,” said Hammoud, adding that when it came to issues as important as childhood education, “people can disagree on ideas without letting bad-faith actors tear our community apart.”
He noted the rally, which was staged the day after Banned Books Week came to an end, is part of a national trend.
“But make no mistake: at their core, these are attempts to limit our freedoms and it will not stop there,” he said. “The same dangerous ideology that once considered people like me ‘a problem’ in Dearborn is now being revived under the guise of preserving ‘liberty.’
Michigan is just one of many states in which political candidates are coming down hard against the freedom of students, or even all people, to read what they choose to read.