Dearborn mayor: Rally opposing library books was an effort by ‘bad-faith actors’

By: - September 30, 2022 4:22 am

Rep. Abdullah Hammoud was elected Dearborn mayor on Nov. 2, 2021 | House Democrats photo

Dearborn’s mayor says a protest Sunday against the inclusion of LGBTQ+ books in the city’s high schools was an effort by “bad-faith actors” trying to tear the community apart.

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.

While Butler insists she has never been a member of Moms For Liberty, she has been making similar arguments against public school curricula for over a year. 

Most recently, she filed a complaint with Dearborn Police over one of the books in question, “This Book is Gay,” by Juno Dawson, a nonfiction young adult book about gender and sexuality.

During Banned Books Week, Dixon supports a ban on ‘pornographic’ books in schools

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.”

Dearborn Police were also forced to place a protective barrier around a counter-demonstrator after he surrounded himself with a LGBTQ+ Pride flag and a trans Pride flag, which prompted approximately a dozen men to surround and verbally harass him.

The counter-demonstrator, identified as Sam Smalley, told Pride Source that the rally attendees “protest my right to exist freely.” Smalley added that while those gathered spoke about protecting children, that was nothing more than a front. 

“A lot of these people, whether they like to admit it or not, don’t actually support or accept people that are a sexual minority or have different gender identities,” he said.

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.”

Hammoud also noted that attempts to restrict access to information and literary works have been taking place across the nation.

“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.’

(M)ake no mistake: at their core, these are attempts to limit our freedoms and it will not stop there. The same dangerous ideology that once considered people like me 'a problem' in Dearborn is now being revived under the guise of preserving 'liberty.'

– Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud

“To my fellow parents, we have the responsibility of raising our children with the values we hold dear, said Hammoud. “And as attacks are being cast, remember that our children are watching.”

The Advance asked for comment on the rallies from Emgage, a national Muslim voter group with a chapter in Michigan and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), who is running in the 12th District that includes Dearborn and recently penned a children’s book. They did not respond.

The book-banning rally followed a smaller gathering earlier in the afternoon of teachers, parents and LGBTQ+ supporters protesting the banning of books from school libraries.

Called “Books Unite Us – Censorship Divides Us,” the event borrowed its title from this year’s Banned Books Week campaign, which ironically ended the day before Sunday’s rally.

According to PEN America’s index of school book bans, Dearborn Public Schools is now the fifth school district in Michigan that has banned or temporarily restricted access to books.


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.