A Pennsylvania man, Damon Atkins, was arrested on Tuesday, June 6, for quoting the bible at a pride event ouside of Reading City Hall. According to the Lancaster Patriot, Atkins was accused of attempting to provoke the LGBTQ+ protestors. While he claimed that he was within his rights to shout Bible quotes to the crowd gathered at the Pride event, officials have charged him with 'Disorderly Conduct to Engage in Fighting.'
The arrest of Damon Atkins has provoked outrage among conservative Christians, who claim that the incident is a sign that authorities are undermining free speech. Atkins himself said that the arrest was an indication that Christians are being oppressed in America. On the other hand, the crowd at the Pride event, who accused the Pennsylvania man of attempting to undermine their rights, could be heard cheering as Atkins was led away by officers.
The left and right clash over the arrest of Damon Atkins
In response to outrage against the arrest of Damon Atkins, the Reading City police officials argued that it was necessary in order to maintain public decorum. They claimed that despite orders from on-site officers to stop causing a scene, Atkins continually shouted Bible quotes at the Pride demonstrators.
The affidavit claimed that he only stopped shouting for a minute, before he resumed 'provoking' the demonstrators.
The police complaint read:
“(Disorderly conduct entails) the intent to cause substantial public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior."
The police statement continued:
"Despite being warned by police just moments prior, (Damon Atkins) yelled derogatory comments at an organization that was holding a permitted event.”
Atkins, however, told the Lancaster Patriot that his behavior was not intentionally inflammatory. In his account of the events, he said that he simply shared Bible quotes with the demonstrators, and that he had no intention to spur violence, stating:
"The main reason I was there was because of love. Because Jesus has taught me to love my neighbor as myself.”
Atkins argued that contrarily, he feels victimized by police and demonstrators. He told reporters that earlier this week, someone at a Pride event had expressed a desire to shoot him. He said that his comments were labelled as derogatory, and this is a direct attack against the bible, adding:
“What is love? Is that love that your pastor tells you that you can be a homosexual and enter the kingdom of God? That’s not love. Now in this country, ‘God’ is a derogatory term. That makes me sick to my stomach.”
Atkins', whose court date has been scheduled for June 16, 2023, said that he intends to continue speaking out against LGBTQ+ demonstrations in Reading City.