(VitalNews.org) – Christian street preacher Damon Atkins was arrested on the 6th of June on charges of “disorderly conduct, engaged in fighting” at the LGBTQ Pride parade in Reading, Pennsylvania. His alleged misconduct involved reading passages from the Bible to passing attendees and displaying a sign that read, “Jesus said, ‘Go and sin no more.’”
After being told to “be respectful” to the attendees by an on-duty officer, Atkins stated that he was in fact being respectful, and continued to cite Bible verses. At this point, he was arrested by that same police officer, Sgt. McClure. Atkins was able to hand his sign over to another man but was not permitted to hand over his bag.
While the crowd of people attending the LGBTQ Pride event may have cheered and clapped as the Christian preacher was arrested, the case against Damon Atkins was quickly dropped. The Berks County District Attorney’s office said that it would no longer pursue the charges against him after conducting a review of available case law and video evidence of the alleged disorderly conduct, including a video taken by a local resident and bodycam footage shot by officers at the scene.
The footage showed a series of interactions between the preacher and the arresting officer, including an exchange in which Atkins argued that he had every right to protest in the street and that he was on public property.
Christian Leinbach, Berks County Commissioner, later told the Lancaster Patriot that he believed Atkins’ arrest was “unlawful” and could open the city and the police department up to legal action. Sgt. McClure’s affidavit stated that Atkins was only arrested after being warned to desist from “disrupting” the event and that he was arrested when he ignored McClure’s demand to cease and “resumed making derogatory comments”.
The Bible verse that Atkins was reciting at the time of his arrest was reportedly taken from Corinthians and read, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
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