Labor Day Festival OK’d with conditions


By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s end-of-the-summer party got the green light to go ahead at a recent city council meeting.
But there were a number of unexplained things said, and not said, in the process of permitting the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival to proceed this year.
In what is usually a routine matter, the resolution to allow the street closure of Jos. Campau, from Caniff to Carpenter, was mysteriously held back at a previous council.
That was on the request of Councilmember Mohammed Hassan, who offered no explanation for why the issue should be postponed.
When it did come back, at last week’s council meeting, Mayor Amer Ghalib said that he and Councilmember Mohammed Alsomiri met with festival organizers Konrad Maziarz and Shannon Lowell to talk over “concerns” about the festival.
The mayor did not explain just what those concerns were, but he said the meeting had been “very productive.”
Ghalib went on to say that all parties agreed “that this is an event to bring people together, not divide people. This is not a political event. It shouldn’t be used to promote any kind of politics or any groups or agenda.”
Again, there was no explanation offered as to what political issues or “agenda” that was concerning.
He added that, if an issue not agreed on pops up unannounced beforehand, “that will have some consequences in the future.”
Councilmember Mohammed Hassan pressed on in that vein, warning that if he sees “anything going the wrong way” he will take action, and that “We can stop it anytime.”
It was not explained what actions would be considered “wrong.”
However, a good guess might be what happened before the Hamtramck Labor Day Parade last year.
Mayor Ghalib and Councilmembers Mohammed Alsomiri and Khalil Refai were apparently offended when they were placed to march in the parade in front of the Hamtramck Queer Alliance group.
The mayor and councilmembers refused to march in front of the Alliance, and were instead placed in an SUV several spots ahead of the HQA.
They also threatened to withhold permission to allow the festival to take place the next year. The festival has gone on for over 40 years.
Asked to explain his comments at the city council meeting, Mayor Ghalib told The Review:
“The order of the marching groups is one of them; per the previous practice, new groups come at the back, not to be the first group to march right behind elected officials,” Ghalib said.
“Last year it was intentionally done for the optics, so the mayor can march while the LGBT flag is flying over his head to send a negative message to a large portion of the community and to destroy his political career.
“This is not acceptable. We agreed that it will not happen again. You can’t have city elected officials then queer alliance then county and state elected officials behind queer alliance. This is one sign that the parade was used to promote a certain agenda.”
That aligns with what Ghalib told The Review last year, saying that placing him and the councilmembers in front of the Hamtramck Queer Alliance 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.”
He continued, saying at the time:
“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 (Downtown Development Authority) 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 issue of the LGBTQ community and their flag came to a flash point earlier in the year when the mayor and city council, who are all-male and all-Muslim, banned the display of pride flags on city property, most notably on the Jos. Campau flagpoles.
That issue caught the attention of local and national media, and a protest rally held in Zussman Park earlier that summer attracted the attention of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is openly gay.
Nessel spoke at the rally, calling the city’s pride flag ban a “national embarrassment.”
The mayor and council justified the ban, saying they wanted the city to remain “neutral” on what some in the community consider a controversial matter that offends some religious morals.
But some critics took issue with the concept of neutrality.
Also speaking at the rally was Rev. Roland Stringfellow, who also said that he, too, is gay, and wasn’t buying the “neutral” angle.
“That’s not ‘neutral,’ that’s taking sides, and it gives people a license to be hateful towards other folks.”
Festival organizers Maziarz and Lowell had this to say about this year’s permission to hold the festival.
“We, the committee, will once again don the mantel of responsibility and try to create a safe and diverse environment for all to be proud of, and really showcase what this city has to offer,” they said in a joint statement.
They added:
“Our hope now, and always has been, that through our stewardship we will be graced with the sense of community as all come together to celebrate the Labor Day Holiday.”
This year’s Labor Day Festival will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Word has it, by the way, that one of the featured bands — fingers crossed — will be a Detroit ‘80s-era legendary band that is still making the rounds.
Posted June 21, 2024

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