A Christian protester, Damon Atkins, was taken into custody in Reading, Pennsylvania, for reciting biblical verses as a counter-statement to an LGBT “Pride March and Rally”. The incident happened on June 3, during the city’s first-ever Pride March, an event that included a flag-raising ceremony at the City Hall building and participants who dressed in exaggerated feminine attire. Atkins was arrested on charges of “criminal disorderly conduct” after he started to preach against the event across the street, while holding a sign reading “God said go and sin no more” and wearing a shirt with the message “You must be born again”.
Matthew Wear, another Reading resident who had been advised by the police to stop preaching, recorded the arrest of Atkins, which transpired after Atkins had been preaching for about a minute. The arresting officer, Sgt. Bradley T. McClure, told Atkins to let the Pride supporters “have their day”, to which Atkins responded by citing his right to be on public property and continued to speak his beliefs.
After a brief walk away, McClure turned back towards Atkins, who started to quote a verse from 1 Corinthians 14:33. Atkins was only able to utter the beginning of the verse before being cut off by McClure, who declared “That’s it. You’re done”, following which Atkins was handcuffed and arrested by McClure and two other officers.
According to the documents obtained by The Lancaster Patriot, Atkins was charged with “Disorderly Conduct Engage in Fighting”. In the affidavit of probable cause, McClure noted that Atkins had begun “to yell to the people at the event”, hence the arrest. Atkins was advised to remain on his side of the street and hold his sign without disrupting the event, but the officer claimed that Atkins had resumed yelling at the event attendees despite acknowledging the instructions.
In response, Atkins denies agreeing to the officer’s orders and refutes the allegations of making “derogatory comments”. He conveyed his dismay that the term ‘God’ is now considered derogatory and reiterated his commitment to the teachings of Jesus. Atkins, who is scheduled to appear in court on June 16, remains hopeful that the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom will provide him with legal assistance. Despite his predicament, he expresses gratitude for the support he has received from the public.