Photo: CBN News via Matthew Wear
Damon Atkins strolled up to Reading, Pennsylvania’s “first ever” pride rally wielding a sign, a Bible and his faith. Less than one minute after joining a smattering of other Christians expressing their views, Atkins found himself getting hauled off in cuffs and charged with criminal disorderly conduct.
The shocking encounter was captured on video by local resident Matthew Wear, who said he wasn’t aware of the rally and only got out of his car in order to “provide encouragement” to the other Christians in attendance. Wear told CBN News he “preached for about 10 minutes across the street” when an officer aggressively approached him, laid his finger on him and said “if you don’t stop shouting insults across the street I will arrest you on the spot.” Wear’s immediate reaction to the officer’s threat was that he “was a tyrant” and “meant business.”
A few moments later, Atkins showed up and briefly interacted with the same officer. He tried to quote 1 Corinthians but was unable to finish before the arrest was made.
You can watch the disturbing interaction and our interview with Atkins here:
As Wear panned the camera around, Atkins could be seen down the street, making his way toward the protest. Wear eerily predicts the officer will “give them a hard time.” Indeed, the officer identified by The Lancaster Patriot as Police Sergeant Bradley T. McClure, immediately approaches Atkins and begins advising him to “let them have their event” and “respect them.”
Atkins can be heard on video arguing it’s public property, to which Sgt. McClure agrees. Atkins, speaking to CBN News, said he also told them “I’m not being rude, I’m just here to spread the Gospel of good news! Jesus Christ saved me and he can save everyone, including you (the officer).”
The officer responded by saying “I don’t care, I’m gonna stand here and you’re gonna be quiet.”
Moments later Atkins began to quote from 1 Corinthians 14:33, which reads “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” But he was never able to finish the verse as McClure rushed in to make the arrest.
You can watch the full raw video, taken by local resident Matthew Wear, HERE.
Atkins claims McClure at one point insinuated God is a derogatory term, warning him not to continue saying such things to those attending the rally so they could “have their event.”
As he was being cuffed, pride rally-goers cheered the arrest. Wear couldn’t help but note the irony on video, that a Christian trying to read the Bible was being taken away by police as some individuals dressed as demons were freely heading to the pride rally.
“I was charged with criminal disorderly conduct with engaged to fight,” Atkins told CBN News.
Atkins stressed he loves everyone and doesn’t just focus on one issue/sin, noting he says the same things to anyone who is living in any type of “willful sin.”
The Lancaster Patriot reports on the contents of the affidavit, which notably has a line about not being allowed to “yell comments” across the street:
According to an affidavit of probable cause, McClure claims that “[Atkins] was carrying a sign with a slogan written on it that showed his opposition to the event.”
The video footage shows Atkins holding a sign that read “JESUS SAID GO AND SIN NO MORE.”
In the affidavit, McClure also claims that Atkins “began to yell to the people” attending the pride event.
“I immediately approached him and told him that, while he was free to stand on that side of the street and hold his sign,” McClure wrote in the affidavit, “he could not cross the street nor yell comments intended to disrupt the event.”
Atkins finds the arrest particularly head-scratching, given the threats he’s received while attending past events to preach the Gospel, including a pride event in which an attendee told him he would “shoot him in the head” if he had a gun. Atkins, for his part, says he is motivated by love, because Jesus has “taught me to love my neighbor as myself.”
Atkins is set to appear in court to face the charges in mid-June and says he doesn’t have any representation as of yet.
CBN News reached out to the Reading police for comment on the arrest, but they have not responded. We will update the story when they reply.