By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck has a new law, aimed at protecting minorities from intimidation.
But not everyone is welcoming the new law.
For the past few weeks, the law came under criticism from some in the community, including an attorney for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).
Their objections are based on the idea that the local law is redundant since there is a state law that is almost identical; also, that it is criminalizing certain behaviors instead of trying to build cultural bridges.
Here is what the new law says:
Section 130.010 – Minority or Ethnic Intimidation.
(1) A person is guilty of minority or ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously, and withspecific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin, does any of the following:
(a) Causes physical contact with another person.
(b) Damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person.
(i) This can include the placing of any objects upon the vehicle of another of anykind when done as a means of intimidation or with intent to harass.
(c) Threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (a) or (b), if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (a) or (b) will occur.
(2) Minority or Ethnic intimidation is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not morethan 90 days in jail, or by a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
(3) This offense shall be considered a separate offense from other crimes against persons or property under the laws of the City of Hamtramck and may be charged as an additional offense to such offense.
ACLU attorney RamisWadood said the ordinance is unneeded because it is “word-for-word, for the most part” identical to a state law.
As for the vandalism of property, Wadood said there are already existing laws that address the issue.
“This ordinance really isn’t doing much as all,” Wadood said. “All the ordinance is accomplishing is expanding the power of the City of Hamtramck to criminalize its residents and its visitors for conduct that is already criminalized on the state level.”
Wadood went on to say that the ordinance “poses serious constitutional issues” by criminalizing “any threats by word or act.” That, he said, violates the First Amendment right of the constitution.
Wadood said similar laws are used against protestors criticizing government.
“But time and time again, the courts have found the protestors’ speech is protected.”
Wadood added that he has “serious concerns how this ordinance came up in the first place.”
He was referencing “the placing of any objects upon the vehicle of another of any kind when done as a means of intimidation or with intent to harass” part of the ordinance.
This apparently came about after Mayor Ghalib complained about an unpeeled sticker of a pride flag was placed on his car.
“Turning a personal vendetta into a law that carries jail time is extremely inappropriate. … This ordinance only further divides the city,” Wadood said.
Mayor Ghalib responded, saying that city officials had been accused of doing nothing about minority and ethnic intimidation.
“We just want to stop it from both sides,” Ghalib said, in reference to placing politically loaded material on vehicles.
Ghalib said that what the ACLU is saying is that it’s OK to punish acts against the LGBTQ community “but leave it open for them (the LGTBQ community) to do any kind of vandalism to other people?”
Gracie Cadieux-Fae said this ordinance came about because of the council and mayor supporting a ban on displaying pride flags on public property, and that they were warned:
“If you choose to brand your hate as civic government, we would resist, we would protest you.”
With the new law now in place, Cadieux-Fae said she will “call on the queers of Hamtramck to paper the f— out of this city with stickers, with protests, with outright dissent to what you’re doing.”
Cadieux-Fae also warned that this law has the potential to “harm” the Muslim community.
“I’m here to say it: white people are not your friends, gentlemen. They’re not here to support you. They don’t like what you’ve built here.”
She warned that if the political tables are ever turned, this law will be “weaponized against you.”
Mayor Ghalib’s response was terse:
“Thank you for that threatening language.”
He added that the city is not trying to prevent protests, but that “you have to compromise. You are the one causing all this tension, not us. … You can’t come and threaten us like that.”
Posted Sept. 29, 2023