The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, religion and assembly. And in the aftermath of a recent LGBT event, many Americans say the arrest of one Pennsylvania man last week was an infringement of all three.
During an LGBT Pride event on Saturday, Damon Atkins was placed in police custody for reciting Bible passages to participants in the rally.
Upon further investigation into the circumstances of the arrest, however, prosecutors decided to drop the disorderly conduct charges against him.
In a Facebook post, the Berks County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that “applicable case law” led to the decision to withdraw all charges against him.
County Commissioner Christian Leinbach expounded on the decision further, asserting his belief that “this was an unlawful arrest and could open the City of Reading and their police department to legal action.”
Matthew Wear was with Atkins at the time and captured video of the arrest. As he explained: “A cop got in my face, laid hands on me, and threatened to arrest me if I didn’t stop.”
When an officer approached Atkins, he informed police that he was on public property. Nevertheless, the cop ordered him to “let them have their event” and “respect” the LGBT lifestyle being celebrated at the event.
“You know who’s cheering for us?” Atkins responded. “The people that are in hell.”
He subsequently explained that he was referencing a biblical parable in which a man called out from hell to warn others about the punishment that awaits them in death.
The officer initially began to leave, but turned back around when Atkins once again called out to a participant in the rally.
“That’s it!” the officer exclaimed. “You’re done!”
Even after he was placed in handcuffs, Atkins kept quoting Bible verses, prompting an officer to move him up against a wall away from the rally. As two additional officers rummaged through Atkins’ backpack, Wear expressed a synopsis shared by many others who later heard about the arrest.
“Sheer tyranny,” he said.
Meanwhile, the LGBT activists leading the rally laughed and ridiculed the Christian demonstrators, including one leader who alerted followers to the fact that they had gotten “themselves in trouble with the police.”