A Pennsylvania man was arrested at an LGBT Pride event after quoting Bible verses to the assembled crowd last week. Video showed the moment that a man identified as Damon Atkins was put in handcuffs near the rally.
The arrest and its aftermath were initially reported by a local investigative journalism website, the Lancaster Patriot.
The events occurred in Reading, Pennsylvania last Saturday during the city’s first “Pride March and Rally.”
Video was recorded by citizen Matthew Wear, who criticized the rally. Wear said that he was told to stop his comments prior to the arrival of Atkins.
Atkins had been holding signs on the sidewalk near the rally when he was approached by the same police officer.
The officer approached Atkins, who could be heard on video saying that the sidewalk was “public property.”
The officer replied that the sidewalk was indeed public property, but then asked Atkins to “let them have their event.”
“You know who’s cheering for us?” Atkins said back. “The people that are in hell.”
Atkins later said that this was a reference to a passage from the Gospel of Luke regarding a sinner who attempted to warn others about his torment in hell.
The officer turned away and left. Atkins then could be heard saying that the officer could “do you, and I’m going to do me.”
Atkins could then be heard shouting, “you!”
Reading Police Chief Richard Tornielli said that the Reading Police Department on Tuesday and Wednesday “fielded hundreds of calls on phone lines” regarding the arrest of a man quoting the Bible on a public sidewalk. https://t.co/6M9XsFLtLa
— The Lancaster Patriot (@TheLanPatriot) June 8, 2023
The other portion of his statement is less discernable but included a reference to God.
The officer returned to the scene and placed Atkins in handcuffs.
He later told the Lancaster Patriot that he planned to read a part of another verse but was unable to due to the arrest.
Atkins attempted to keep speaking but was placed against a wall, then sat on the curb.
Wear, still recording, called the event “sheer tyranny.”
During the tumult, members of the Pride event cheered and a speaker told Wear and Atkins to get “some love into that heart of yours.”