By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s cultural war continues to play out.
This time, it happened at an otherwise-unsuspecting event: The Hamtramck Labor Day Parade.
And, once again, it involved an all-too familiar issue: the LGBTQ community and its supporters.
City Councilmembers Mohammed Alsomiri and Khalil Refai and Mayor Amer Ghalib objected to their placement in the parade order – in front of the Hamtramck Queer Alliance.
They demanded to be placed away from the Alliance, farther up ahead. As it turned out, the councilmembers and mayor opted to travel in an SUV instead of walking in the parade, as other elected officials have traditionally done.
They also threatened to not grant permission for the parade and festival next year.
The mayor and council have come under criticism for banning the display of pride flags on public property, to the point of even incurring the wrath of State Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Nessel said the city’s ban on pride flags made the city a “national embarrassment.”
Nessel, who is openly gay, implored the city to rescind its resolution.
At the time the council and mayor banned the flags, they said they were doing so to remain “neutral” on what can be a divisive issue for some communities.
The mayor and council are all-male, and all-Muslim.
Ghalib blamed parade organizers on the matter, telling The Review it was a “provocative move, intentionally done by the organizing committee to make us look, in front of the community, like we are leading the queer group with the flags flying behind us.”
“They have become very predictable. I told some council members three days ago that I expect them to do this and, for that reason, the first thing we did was to look at the order of the marching groups and we found what we expected.
“To avoid that kind of optics, we brought a big SUV white truck, and we ended up riding it while (City Manager) Max (Garbarino) was the driver. We moved to the first place instead of staying at position number 5. …
“It seems that the main goal for the organizing committee was to use the festival to promote a certain group agenda. That is not what the sponsors give their money for, including the $8,000 that we approved to be given by the DDA in support of this festival.
“It looks like everything will have consequences. I don’t agree with not allowing the festival to happen again, but we will be involved more in the organizing part, and make it more representative of the whole community — not just to promote one group.”
The Review reached out to the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival Volunteer Committee for comment, and here is their reply:
“This is the first time we have been informed that the mayor was unhappy with any part of the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, including the parade.
“We worked very hard to make the event a safe, fun and inclusive event for everyone, and to celebrate the diversity in Hamtramck.
“We are saddened to hear that Ameer Ghalib has expressed a complaint about his being in the parade in proximity to a rainbow flag or a display of LGBTQ+ pride.
“It has always been the intention of our all-volunteer group to embrace the many different people and groups that make Hamtramck one of the most diverse cities in metro Detroit, truly ‘The World In Two Square Miles.”
Posted Sept. 8, 2023