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Charges dropped against man arrested after trying to quote Bible to Pride rally attendees; official reportedly says legal action may come against police

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Charges have been dropped against a Pennsylvania man who was arrested over the weekend after trying to quote the Bible to Pride rally attendees.

"After a review of the incident which took place on June 3, 2023, in the 800 block of Washington Street in the City of Reading, the District Attorney’s Office has withdrawn the charges of disorderly conduct filed against Damon Atkins," a Tuesday Facebook post from the Berks County District Attorney reads. "The charges were withdrawn after the District Attorney’s Office reviewed the videos of the incident along with applicable case law."

According to the Lancaster Patriot — which initially covered details of the arrest — an email from Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach said "from what I have seen thus far I believe this was an unlawful arrest and could open the City of Reading and their police department to legal action."

What's the background?

The incident took place Saturday outside City Hall at 815 Washington Street where the first annual Reading Pride March & Rally was underway. Reading is about 90 minutes northwest of Philadelphia.

The Patriot spoke to Atkins as well as the man who recorded video of his arrest, Matthew Wear.

Wear told the Patriot he'd been preaching to the Pride rally attendees prior to Atkins’ arrival, and the same officer who arrested Atkins also told Wear to knock it off. “A cop got in my face, laid hands on me, and threatened to arrest me if I didn’t stop," Wear says on video.

The outlet said Atkins was standing on the public sidewalk holding signs just after 10 a.m. when trouble began for him, too. Wear's video camera was on, and he captured the interaction between Atkins and the officer.

“This is public property," Atkins told the officer — identified by the Patriot as Sgt. Bradley McClure — who agreed it was public property but still insisted that Atkins "let them have their event” and “respect it."

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Atkins replied, “You know who’s cheering for us? The people that are in hell.”

The Patriot said Atkins later explained he was referring to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke, in which a rich man begs Father Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about the place of torment he's in.

As the officer turned and walked away, Atkins said, "So you do you, and I'm gonna do me."

With that, Atkins began speaking, hollering, "You!" across the street and then uttering the words, "God is not" before the officer interrupted with, "That's it! You're done!" and arrested Atkins. The Pride rally attendees applauded.

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Atkins added to the Patriot that he was going to quote a portion of 1 Corinthians 14:33 — “God is not the author of confusion” — but didn't finish speaking the verse as he was being arrested.

Moments later, when a handcuffed Atkins continued trying to speak to the Pride rally attendees, the officer turned him around and walked him up against a building's outer wall.

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Soon the officer walked Atkins away from the rally as two other officers followed and sat him on a curb while his backpack was emptied.

"Sheer tyranny," Wear — who was still recording video of everything — said about what was going down in front of his eyes.

Image source: YouTube screenshot

During this time, a Pride representative on a microphone mocked "protesters across the street" who managed to "get themselves in trouble with the police."

The crowd loved it and began cheering. The man on the mic then urged the protesters to get "some love into that heart of yours."

Check out the video below. Atkins' arrest occurs just after the 1:50 mark:

Christian arrested in Reading Pennsylvania at a Pride March.youtu.be

What else?

The Patriot included in its initial report what it says is an affidavit of probable cause, which indicates the arresting officer said, “[Atkins] was carrying a sign with a slogan written on it that showed his opposition to the event.”

The outlet added that the affidavit also said the arresting officer indicated 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, he could not cross the street nor yell comments intended to disrupt the event," the affidavit read, according to the Patriot.

The officer added that Atkins “said he understood," the outlet noted.

However, Wear's video doesn't appear to show Atkins agreeing to not "yell comments" at the Pride rally attendees, and Atkins added to the Patriot that he never agreed to the officer's instructions.

More from the outlet:

A court document provided to The Lancaster Patriot shows that Atkins was charged with “Disorderly Conduct Engage in Fighting.”

A criminal complaint from the Reading Police Department provided to The Lancaster Patriot explains that a violation of the Disorderly Conduct statute 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” and that Atkins “despite being warned by police just moments prior, yelled derogatory comments at an organization that was holding a permitted event.”

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